Tag Archives: interview

Local paper covers our new market business!


Photo: Chris Kasza and Jocelyn Durston are farming on three different plots of land in Maple Ridge. Photograph by Maria Rantanen, TIMES

Chris and I were interviewed by the Maple Ridge Times recently about our Farm for Life market business and the piece was published today. Fun! Journalist Maria Rantanen wrote a story on us last year about our farming project and we were so happy to have her back on the farm to talk to her about what we’ve been up to since then. I’ve re-posted the article below and you can also read it online at www.mrtimes.com.

Couple spins magic on three small Ridge lots
A couple is joining a growing number of young adults who are growing food locally
By Maria Rantanen, The Times, September 27, 2012 

With three small plots of land, a lot of hard work and sweat, but a love of the land, one couple in Maple Ridge is supplying marketgoers with fresh produce.

Jocelyn Durston and Chris Kasza are joining a host of young adults who are getting back to the land, farming on small plots, and trying to make a living off it.

The model for their farming is called SPIN – small-lot intensive farming – and with less than acre in production and with their first full season underway, Durston and Kasza are already selling at market and to a local grocery store.

After graduating with a master’s degree in urban agriculture and studying sustainability in producing food in an urban setting a few years ago, the work Durston was doing was theoretical rather than practical, working on public policy in an office setting.

But her heart was pulling her into the garden to do hands-on work.

She rented a space on the property of friends in east Maple Ridge, who had started gardening on their two-and-a-half acres.

Durston jumped into the project with her friends and started her Farm for a Year project, blogging her way through the experience.

In 2012, Farm for a Year morphed into Farm for Life, at which point her partner Kasza joined the project.

Durston said she thinks a lot of young people are starting to realize they don’t want spend 40 to 50 years sitting at a job, and that they don’t need to have big houses and big cars.

There is a lot of satisfaction in growing one’s own food, Durston said, and pursuing what they love doing and being their own bosses.

While Durston calls herself a farmer, Kasza said he prefers the term “market gardener.”

“It’s a lifestyle that we really love,” Durston said.

She also believes that despite the cost of land, there is a lot of under-utilized properties that could be farmed.

“There are a lot of creative ways to access land if you can’t afford it,” she said.

In addition to the lot they live on, Durston and Kasza have also been farming on two other lots in Maple Ridge.

The couple is selling produce from their gardens at the Haney Farmers Market every week bounty. They also sell produce to Roots on Dewdney Trunk Road.

Kasza estimated they are farming on about half to three-quarters of an acre of land.

This year, they’ve grown chard, several varieties of kale, cucumber, broccoli, carrots, beets, peas, and salad greens, zucchini and squash. They also have edible flowers, cut flowers, onions, and potatoes.

Whenever they go to a seed store and are faced with new possible varieties for their garden, they are like “kids in a candy shop,” Durston said.

Durston and Kasza have read a lot about small-lot farming, which is known as SPIN gardening. Some of the inspiration for what they’re doing came from reading about a man in Saskatoon, Wally Satzewich, who was able to make money by farming in people’s backyards using city water.

He focused on high-value foods that bring in money.

“We love doing this so our goal is trying to figure out if we can do this and make a living at it,” Durston said about their small-lot farming.

But they are still on a “learning curve,” Kasza added.

They estimate they can make about $10,000 next year with
their small-lot farming.

In addition to bringing cash from their crops, about 85 per cent of own fresh food is from their garden, which translates into huge food cost savings.

They’d also like to process the food they produce, for example, drying herbs, canning, and pickling.

Selling at the farmers market has allowed them to build relationships with their customers. One family comes to get kale from Durston and Kasza regularly – but it doesn’t last them the whole week, so they come mid-week to pick up more.


Our farming project featured in Country Life in BC


In November I was interviewed by Ronda Payne for an article in Country Life in BC, an agricultural newspaper here in BC. Their website hasn’t been updated with the December issue yet, but Ronda put a paper copy in the mail for me and I received it today. Photos above and article below. Thanks Ronda! 

Farm for a Year in Maple Ridge
Country Life in BC – December 2011
by Ronda Payne 

The idea was to farm the land for a year. Just a year – to try it out and see what happened. Now, with that year under their belts, the friends and family who started the Farm for a Year concept in Maple Ridge are looking to change the project’s name. 

With a background in sustainable agriculture and environment, Jocelyn Durston was an aspiring farmer without much practical knowledge or experience. 

“I was dreaming about trying my hand at it, rather than just reading about it,” she recalls.

After recgonizing her nine to five life wasn’t all she’d hoped for, Durston recalled an idea shared with a childhood friend to one day start a sustainable farm together. 

Meanwhile, that friend – Julie – had married Chris Moerman. The pair, along with Chris’ brother (Matt) and Matt’s wife (Chantalle) had purchased part of the two and a half acre former hobby farm the brothers had grown up on. The families moved into the farm house and dreamed of how they would grow food. But, busy schedules demanded their time and the farming simply wasn’t happening. 

Then, two years ago, Durston approached the group with a proposal. In exchange for a rent reduction, she would lead the charge on farming ideas and activities. Now, living out of a converted mobile home, Durston works part time as a tutor and devotes the rest of her time to the farm. It has already paid off.

“We were far more successful in producing an edible harvest this year than we thought,” she says. “In August and September, I ate probably 80 percent of my food from here.”

Ducks and chickens are for egg production and rabbits are raised for meat. Vegetable gardens have been built in a number of forms, a small orchard has been planted and a spiral herb garden is in place near the house. The group also has plans for growing mushrooms and a variety of other crops.

“Chris and Matt used to be in 4-H when they lived here,” Durston notes of the ease in which the animals came about. The farm even recently had pigs in co-operation with a local 4-H group. 

All of the farming is done in a permaculture fashion. Both Durston and Chris took a permaculture course in the spring as well as numerous other classes and sessions on farming and gardening. 

“We’re certainly not experts, but we love it and are learning.” Durston explains. “We’re trying to incorporate permaculture practices into everything. It is earth care, people care and fair share – those are the three ethics with it and anything you do, you do it in this way.”

At the farm, a number of traditional techniques are used, like a “chicken tractor” – a portable chicken cage to go over deep vegetable garden beds. The chickens spend time in the cage and scratch the earth, eat and fertilize. It benefits the soil in the garden and it benefits the chickens. Durston hopes to incorporate a rabbit tractor at some point. Giving the animals free range and options like the chicken tractor adds fertilizer to the grounds and helps to stir up the soil which, in the Farm for a Year location, is important. 

“The soil here is very clay heavy, so we started off with deep beds and tried different methods in each bed,” Durston notes of the vegetable gardens.

In one bed, the farmers did companion planting of the three sisters – corn, green beans and squash. 

“Unfortunately, the beans took off way faster than the corn so we will plant the corn earlier next year,” she says.

In a second bed, they used traditional row planting. In a third, they used the square foot method which a computerized plan Chris created.

Other techniques used help deal with the invasive buttercups found everywhere. Durston doesn’t want to use pesticides so she is creating a “lasagna garden,” so named because it makes use of cardboard, leaves and the chicken coop muck applied in layers. By continuing to build up the layers, it composts, builds eath and becomes a growing medium on top of the now dead buttercups.

Another tool being employed is Hugelkulture – an ancient European method of mimicking what happens in a forest. Durston has layered sticks, leaves and other organic material to replicate the forest floor. 

The relatively new, small orchard includes apple, pear, plum, nectarine and cherry trees as well as raspberries and blueberries. Durston has been building “guilds” around the fruit trees – a concept of having multiple edible plants around an edible tree to work together creating a greater source of nitrogen and nutrients.

Although most of the five farmers are teachers and their day jobs are far from agriculture-related, they have a collective goal to use the space to educate and inspire others. They have already hosted field trips from a local high school and other organizations. Durston also hopes t
o get to the point of producing enough vegetables to sell at the Haney Farmers’ Market. 

“I love the idea of using this space as something we’re not keeping to ourselves,” Durston says. “Anyone can do this. We learn as we go and ask a lot of questions.”

When asked how she feels about the concept of farming, Durston replies, “My quality of life has skyrocketed, I feel more connected to the earth and the community and this is absolutely something I want to incorporate into the rest of my life. We’ll continue as long as it makes sense.”

a little bit of farm fame

So, our little Farm for a Year project has officially made the press!  An interview I had with writer Christina Crook has been published on canadianchristianity.com.  Fun!  You can see the article here, but I’ve also reposted it below:

So long office…hello farm!

By Christina Crook

IT MIGHT be the sun skittering across the rounded tin of her trailer as day breaks. It might be the years spent in Africa witnessing the sure reward of a hard day’s labour. It might be the deep-seated desire to put her master’s studies in Environmental and Sustainable Development Economics to work.

It might be all these things and more that led Jocelyn Durston to abandon her meticulously designed apartment and cushy policy job in Ottawa and take up residency on a fledgling farm for a year.

Durston is a 31 year old Vancouverite who used to dream of farming – until, one day, she tired of dreaming and decided to get her hands dirty. She bought a 1978 motorhome, sold and donated most of her belongings and moved to Maple Ridge, B.C. (along with her cats, Fergus and Lola) to help some friends start up a small farm.

Along with couples Julie and Chris, and Matt and Chantalle Moerman, and their two toddlers, Durston began the ‘farm for a year’ project in September 2010. The goal is to transform 2.5 acres into a sustainable, flourishing, environmentally sensitive, small working farm.

Inspired by the belief that a healthy future will require the re-localization of food production, the small organic mixed farm will serve as an experiment in gardening, caring for livestock and sustainable living. Using principles of traditional farming, with a respect for healthy living soil, the five are endeavoring to see just how much can be produced on a small plot of land by a bunch of novices.

Durston, who also works as Trinity Western University’s Peer Giving Solutions Coordinator, agreed to answer some questions about the experiment.

What is the motivation?

My current ‘year on a farm’ adventure is in very large part a response to craving a level of spiritual connectedness to something more – something that I have a hard time finding in my daily 9-to-5, urban life. I’m sure it’s there – I just want something that’s way less easy to ignore: an in-my-face kind of glory and inspiration and peace and understanding that I have found in the brief experiences with nature and close community I’ve had in my past. But brief hasn’t been doing it for me. I want the daily goods, the stuff that comes when we truly connect ourselves to the most basic and natural elements that came out of creation: the earth, animals and human relationships.”

How was the idea born?

I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint when my childhood daydreams of “Wouldn’t it be cool to live on a farm?” became a more serious interest. I was 23 years old, in my third year at TWU, steadily working towards a BA in Development Studies and working part-time at a health food store in Langley. I was already interested in politics, food security, development and environmental issues, but it was in the hours spent reading health food store propaganda while working quiet Willowbrook Mall evening shifts that I really began to wrap my head around the global politics of food – and its connection to everything. After that, things just kind of started steamrolling.

What prompted ‘farm for a year’?

My interest in agriculture lasted through the rest of my TWU years and hasn’t stopped. I moved to the UK and earned a Masters degree, writing my thesis on the food security sustainability of ecologically sustainable urban agriculture. When a career opportunity took me to Ottawa, I started volunteering locally with a local food justice organization and quickly got the opportunity to help start up a community garden in the neighbourhood I was living in. When I moved back to B.C. for a job at TWU, I still had the farming idea in the back of my mind.

After I’d been living in the city for a few months, I was starting to feel fidgety and wanted to figure out a way to bring the farm aspect to my life. Chris and Julie had been talking to me about coming out and helping with the farm. I remembered their proposal, and so I emailed them. Within a week, it was a go. Today I get to be with my favourite people in the world and help them tackle their dream.

How is this a step of faith?

For me, the most impacting faith experiences have taken place when I am part of a very strong community and interacting with nature on a practical level. These have been the times I have most connected to God. The times I have felt happiest and experienced the most joy have been outside, whether travelling or exploring nature. So, the farm give me those two things. Being outside, getting dirty, breathing the air and working with animals and plants are such a tangible example of God’s creativity and his love of life. Also the community aspect is huge. The community we have on the farm is like the community you search out at church. We talk together, share meals together, tackle challenges together. When I leave my day job and get to the farm, it’s like a weight lifts.

What have you had to sacrifice?

I have given up things on the material side, donating a ton of my personal belongings because I was moving into a small space. Certainly I’ve given up living space – the trailer is small. I had to be very thoughtful about the things I kept. I have given up an indoor bathroom. I have a shower, but I’ve given up endless hot water. I have also given up living in downtown Vancouver; the ability to live in a place where I can commute anywhere by bicycle was a big sacrifice. I gave up a certain level of privacy. But I feel like what I have gained very much outweighs what I’ve given up.

Have there been unexpected joys?

Living with children. I have never lived in close proximity with kids. I love them. I have developed such an appreciation and love for these kids.

What happens once the year is up?

We are going to reassess when we are close to the year mark. As it is, all of us want me to stay here longer, and if we are still happy with the arrangement, then we would likely turn it into ‘farm for two years.’ As for the farm, the first goal is to be self-sufficient for everyone that lives here. After that, we would love to learn to grow more so we can sell produce and help sustain the farm financially. We dream abou
t this being a place for workshops and school field trips.

What have you learned about following your dream?

I would say, “Do it,” if you are really feeling that strong pull. My motto is that life is too short. God has created us to be these creative individuals who have hearts with dreams, and if we feel our hearts pulled in a particular direction, that’s God. Fear can hold us back a lot. If we step out and take that risk – God surprises us in ways that we can’t imagine.

Reposted from www.canadianchristianity.com