Local food news & events

Twas the week before Christmas…

After much hard work preparing for our last Cow-op market week of the season – the week has arrived… with snow and power outages! Many of our producers were hit with the challenge of not being able to run their juicers or blenders with no power. Others couldn’t get out of their driveways. In the case of Lockwood Farms, who worked extra hard to provide fresh farm produce to Cowichan Valley customers for Christmas; they woke up to their fields covered with a foot of icy snow and all of their fresh produce unable to be harvested.

This is an important opportunity to transparently share the reality for local agriculture and for farmers all over – so we have decided to post this letter from Cammy Lockwood to their customers.

Merry Christmas & please keep doing what you can to support Local Ag!

From Lockwood Farms:

I am disappointed. I really wanted you to be enjoying our brussels sprouts, parsnips, and leeks for your Christmas dinner.

Yesterday was yet another unexpected snow storm. The most we got from the weather forecast was ‘we may see some flurries of snow on Monday’. I started my day as most do, looking out the window. I saw how heavily it was snowing, and knew that the day was not going to go as planned; harvesting parsnips and turnips.

We have our list of priorities that help guide us when everything is requiring our attention. We make sure people are safe, animals have air, water and food, we have cleared access to our property, and our buildings are stable. There are many hard decisions with not a lot of information that we have to make on a day like yesterday.

I went down to the barn to meet with our egg grading staff (who amazingly all made it on time), and go over what needed to be done for the day. I noticed that our protective netting in the free-range pasture was already collapsed. While I was in the barn, the power cut out. Fortunately for us, because we have so many hens, we are required to have a back-up generator. It ensures that our barn maintains good ventilation, powers the property’s pump and the automated feed system. It clicked on, and the barn was humming as usual. Always first thing in an outage, I call BC Hydro let them know of the outage and remind them that with 6000 hens, we aren’t just waiting for our Christmas lights to come back on. I checked over the generator and went back to the house (which doesn’t have power). I called the fuel company to make sure that we can get more diesel to keep the generator going. They won’t deliver until it stops snowing. James had taken care of the kids and was getting on the tractor to start clearing snow. We have 2 different driveways that we need to clear, we need to make sure feed trucks, fuel trucks, and staff can get in and out.

With James on the tractor, and the kids happily playing in the snow, I turned my attention to the greenhouse. Throughout the day, I continually check weather and power updates.

Insurance companies do not cover snow-load on greenhouses. So it is up to us to make sure that it will survive the storm. I get a ladder and start shoveling. It is not easy work, the more I clear, the further I have to shovel the same bits of snow.

I came in for lunch, sorted out the kids with hot chocolate and more candles, kept the wood stove going. James and I had a chance talk about the diesel… We were running low and we need to get some. James is considering getting a drum and a pump. Fortunately, the fuel company is able to come, but James needs to make sure they have good access. I head back out to the greenhouse. There is close to 20cm that fell over the time I had lunch! I re-do everything I just did. When I get to where I was, I see the poly really stretched, worse than I have ever seen it before. I call James to come assess it with me. We figured out a different way to tackle it and I decided to keep going. The snow is still coming down heavily, showing no signs of slowing down. I keep going, but then I notice that there is too much of a wobble with every step. I don’t want to be on top of the greenhouse if it were to collapse. James is currently helping our employees leave (several stuck cars). We decided to cut the poly on the greenhouse. This is not an easy decision. I cried, full on sobs, as I was getting the knife. Cutting poly is like letting go of our plans for the upcoming season. We will never know if the cuts we made saved the structure. We would only know if we didn’t do it and it fell.

At this point, the light was fading. Fortunately, the diesel tank was full, the eggs were graded and ready to go to customers for the week, and the poly was cut, so there was nothing more that we could do.

Our plan for Tuesday is also disrupted. Our delivery driver is unable to get to work, unable to even leave his house. James needs to do deliveries then. But we need to get the truck out, and re-clear everything that was cleared yesterday.

We had also planned to harvest all the veg for your order. It was supposed to turn to rain yesterday, and be sunny today, which means we could have. But the rain never came yesterday, not enough to clear the snow. This frosty morning now, we have a foot of crusty snow covering what was supposed to be your dinner.

So, as you are missing some items from your order, please remember what bad weather and power-outages mean for us, the stresses and the decisions we have to make. Local food production depends on local people, transportation systems, electrical systems. When there is a disruption we feel it at every level.

We are seeing more and more of these extreme weather events as farmers. We measure it by the number or stressful weather situations we face in a year, it is certainly increasing. Please continue to fight for our earth, continue to press our governments on every level for better climate solutions, continue to talk about it with your friends and your family. Please share our story of the snow storm. And please, continue to support local agriculture, food production, and the Cow-op.

Many Blessings, and MERRY CHRISTMAS from all of us at Lockwood Farms, and the Cow-op!

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