Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS) President, Bill Lloyd, works hard to provide fresh produce for the community. (Laureen Carruthers Photography)

Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS) President, Bill Lloyd, works hard to provide fresh produce for the community. (Laureen Carruthers Photography)

DOWN TO EARTH: Students, volunteers help dig for treasures in the Cariboo

Locally grown veggies are fast becoming a high value item in households

If you drive about half an hour north of Williams Lake during the summer months, you will see highway signs directing you to a popular U-Pick farm called Soda Creek Corn. In the summer and early fall, people venture to the farm from all around to pick everything from corn to cauliflower.

Locally grown veggies are fast becoming a high value item in households, for their nutritious and delicious quality, as well as their limited travel which makes them both health conscious and eco-friendly.

After the farm closes to the public for the season, a different type of visitor arrives, armed with shovels and pitchforks. This crew of volunteers turns up to dig through the soil and rummage through the plants for remaining veggie treasures. This is an annual event, referred to as “gleaning” and it allows the farm and the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS) to harvest and donate fresh and healthy produce to local food banks, while also reducing food waste.

Soda Creek Corn, owned by Ron, Linda and Steven Kaufman, includes 15 acres of corn fields, and a 10 acre U-Pick vegetable garden. It is challenging for farmers to predict how much to plant from year to year, for a number of reasons. Unpredictable weather patterns have an effect on crop growth and consumer demand often fluctuates, so at the end of each season, varying amounts of crops are left behind. Since 2017, the Kaufmans have generously allowed CCCS to gather what they can from what is left for the benefit of the community. In past years we have also been able to glean potatoes at Earl Wilson’s Silver Birch Farm.

Our main activities at CCCS are geared toward sustainable living education, including Water and Waste Wise content. Every program we deliver has some kind of educational component to it, whether it is intended for students or residents. We often invite students to join our volunteers on gleaning day, which allows us to yield even more produce for donation, while students get to learn more about where their food comes from. This year, 22 students from Mr. Wilson’s grade 7 class participated with their dedicated substitute teacher, Mrs. Glanville. The students were energetic and seemed to enjoy spending the day outside, digging in the dirt, and horsing around. When asked what their favorite part of the day was, some of the kids had this to say: Kenny, “Fun! Love the carrots!”, Trey, “I do not enjoy jalapeño peppers,” and Micah “enjoyed picking veggies.”

The gleaning process is hard work, and we couldn’t do it without the help of the students and volunteers, including staff from nearby Puddle Produce farm, and members of our own board of directors. By the end of the day, our team had gleaned over 200 pounds of potatoes, carrots, beets, cauliflower, and a variety of squash. Produce has already begun to be delivered to Williams Lake food banks at various locations to be distributed to those in need. What could be better than spending a day at a beautiful farm, enjoying the company of others outside, and the feeling of doing something that helps your community?

Waste Wise tip: Use an “eat me first” bin to reduce food waste, and keep the fridge looking tidy and clean. On average, British Columbians toss out 25 per cent of all groceries we purchase.

For more information on Water Wise or Waste Wise and any of our programs, contact the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society at ccentre@ccconserv.org or visit the website at conservationsociety.ca

Amber Gregg is the program coordinator for the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

READ MORE: DOWN TO EARTH: Summer bike brigade educates Cariboo residents on efficient water use



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