• Ryan Painter

Nothing fickle about these farmers

The original article appeared on timescolonist.com on April 23, 2016. You can find the original article here.

Saanich Peninsula farmers Chris Margetts and Mitchell Morse were already living the dream before the green ribbon-cutting at their new Fickle Fig Farm Market.

Saanich Peninsula farmers Chris Margetts and Mitchell Morse were already living the dream before the green ribbon-cutting at their new Fickle Fig Farm Market.

Despite the whimsical title, “fickle” doesn’t describe these earthy local agri-heroes who just took their organic farming dream to the next level.

Their labour of love began in October 2013 when Morse, born on an upstate New York dairy farm, and Sidney-born Margetts turned a 4.5-acre former hay field they leased in Saanich into The Fickle Fig Farm.

The hard-working partners eventually expanded their field of dreams at 5630 Alderley Rd., transforming it into a model of diversification and sustainability.

They’ve attracted a growing legion of fans since they began selling organic fruits, vegetables and herbs from their farm, which houses an orchard, honeybees, pigs, goats, sheep, cows and rabbits.

Starting with their tiny stall on Lochside Trail, the Fickle Fig grew more popular with their presence at North Saanich Farmers Market and Sidney Street Market.

“These two young men have shown the art of the possible, and shown that when the community stands together it can be done,” said Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes.

He was one of several regional politicians who joined the farm-to-table crowd and community supporters for the April 15 opening of the co-op market at 1780 Mills Rd.

The “zero-waste facility” includes an on-site garden, bakery and upcoming bistro and is a place farmers who share their sustainable philosophy can sell, said Morse.

“When produce is ripening or starting to go off, we need a chance to can it, perserve it and feed people so it doesn’t end up in the wastebin,” he said. “Worst-case scenario is it goes to our pigs, so everybody wins.”

Wray Creek Farm, La Dolce Vegan, Wild Edge Garden Farm, Enerchi Kombucha and Little Acre Soap are among vendors already participating in the buy-local hub.

Items on the shelves include lamb, pork, beef, kale, arugula, garlic, salad greens, eggs, flowers, mementos and dog treats.

The 5,000-square-foot market and back gardens occupies the former site of Twin Peaks Nursery and Landscaping Supplies on property leased from Gwenda and Jim Waterhouse.

“When Chris and Mitchell approached us we were thrilled,” said Gwenda, who said they were ready to “hand over the reins” to like-minded growers.

“Farming is hard work. It’s not just a 9-to-5 job, and the way they grow and farm was such a nice match to what we did and how we feel about the land.”

The realities of farm life was a common topic at the opening.

“I was brought up on a farm in Fraser Valley and spent the first 20 years of my life there,” said Saanich Coun. Leif Wergeland. “The only thing I learned was that I never wanted to be a farmer.”

Margetts, whose day job is as a Re/Max real estate team assistant, said he enjoys farming so much it doesn’t feel like work.

“I don’t find it as hard when I’m out on the farm with the animals and harvesting or even weeding,” he said.

Morse, a pastry chef and full-time farmer, concurs. He said his focus is on boosting opportunities for local farmers so supply can keep up with demand.

“If I’m making fresh pasta, and we don’t have any more fresh eggs, I’m not making fresh pasta anymore,” he said. “When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Ryan Painter, constituency assistant to Saanich North and the Islands NDP MLA Gary Holman, was pumped — or about to be — when he heard Good Seed Hemp Farm would sell an organic protein powder there.

“It’s always important to try and find locally sourced things that are socially conscious,” said the former weightlifter. “This might encourage me to get back into the gym.”

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