Meet Anna from Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada

“I’m a born-and-raised city girl-turned modern homesteader with a passion for self-sufficiency, sustainability, environment and local food, and a commitment to sharing this passion with others!

When we still lived in Vancouver, my husband and I started watching a lot of food-related documentaries (ie. Food Inc., Fed Up, Food Fight, etc.) and started to seriously look at the food we were eating, how it was produced and where it came from. We had also started seriously considering a move out of the city to escape the rat race, so we put the two together and five years ago we moved out of the city, started our first garden and never looked back!

I grow food because it’s one small but powerful action I can take to improve the land, eliminate food miles in support of the environment and take a stand against big agribusiness, GMOs, pesticides and processed foods. Not to mention, growing food has greatly increased our family’s food security and self-sufficiency in a time when these things are becoming progressively more important.

We now live in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island, Canada. We live on 1/4 acre just outside of town on the edge of the forest, and we grow food on roughly 1,000 square feet.

We grow a wide range of fruits and veggies, from berries to greens to squash and beans and everything in between! But our staple crops are tomatoes (we grow around 40 plants per year), hardneck garlic and broccoli, since those are our favourite foods! We also keep a small flock of backyard chickens, so we’re never short on eggs:)

We’ve got clay soil. It’s super rich in nutrients but we’re constantly working to add more organic mater and break up the soil with minimal tilling. In the fall, we layer on compost and chicken manure and either mulch with bark mulch or plant a cover crop. (This year we planted fall rye since its roots are best for breaking up clay soils and it adds organic matter in the spring).

As for pest management, we have a lot of deer, so that’s the biggest issue, but our garden is fenced so that really takes care of that. Otherwise we hand-pick most pest bugs and just accept that we will share some plants with other pests. Overall we’ve been lucky to not have major problems with bugs and I believe that everything serves a purpose in the ecosystem, so I interfere as little as possible whenever possible. Covering the soil is a key step in our pest management plan and next year we want to build a chicken tractor and let the chickens deal with the pests for us.

We source our seeds as locally as possible as I believe locally-adapted seed varieties will almost always yield the best results. Our main supplier is West Coast Seeds, but we also source from smaller local seed companies, and we save seeds from many of our crops, including peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce and garlic.

I think the biggest hurdle is wanting to do more than we have the space/capacity for at the moment. I think this is pretty common among gardeners and homesteaders: our appetite for plants and animals is often larger than our growing space! One day we’d like to purchase several acres so we can add more growing space, perennials and fruit trees, as well as expand our poultry flock and add goats!

The biggest reward is the empowerment that comes from taking control of our food supply. No matter what’s going on in the world, what’s in the foods at the grocery store or what’s available on store shelves, we know that we have the skills we need to produce and preserve our own healthy, organic, real food at home.

I’m a big advocate for small farms and eating and supporting local, so while we’re still a little busy building our own homestead, we make every effort to supplement what we don’t grow with locally-produced food whenever possible and support our local farmers. I also volunteer with a local food share program called the Lush Valley Food Action Society: a gleaning, food education and community gardening program that I hope to become even more involved in one day when I have more time! Otherwise my main focus is on raising awareness about the food that we eat through my blog, YouTube channel, my free monthly online magazine, Modern Homesteading Magazine, and through my paid online courses on organic gardening and canning food!

In a world where it often feels like so much is uncertain and out of our control, you have more power than you might think to ensure food security and self-sufficiency for you, your family and your community by growing your own and by choosing to support local.

Every choice we make and dollar we spend is a vote cast for the type of world we want to live in. Choosing to become a producer rather than simply a consumer, and investing your dollars in ethically grown and raised local foods is perhaps the most impactful choice you can make. You don’t have to change your lifestyle or consumer habits overnight, but small choices and actions every day truly do add up.”