From social worker to accidental farmer, Cathy Finley is the poster child for a new revolution in agriculture: the career switcher.
Instead of leaving the farm for a career in the city, people such as Finley are dropping their briefcases and spreadsheets for a turn at the tractor.
Finley, owner of Laurica Farm in Langley, along with three other Lower Mainland farmers who’ve made the switch, will be speaking at the Farming as a Second Career workshop being held by the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Patrick Murphy, who left a career as corporate marketing manager for Ritchie Bros. to start a farm with his wife Lee — maker of gourmet preserves that have found their way onto the shelves of high-end stores around the world, such as Harrod’s in London — is himself now a certified winemaker and grower of some of the fine fruits and vegetables used in Lee’s jams as well as the wines and ciders he himself brews at their Vista D’oro Farms and Winery in Langley.
In Chilliwack, meanwhile, former school teacher and principal Dan Oostenbrink launched a venture several years ago to join what he considers a food revolution with his The Local Harvest farm and market. His aim is to offer clean, nutritious food to his own community, something he hopes will be duplicated throughout the Lower Mainland, where small farms are sustained by their surrounding neighbourhoods.
And Ashala Daniel, a school and hospital administrator for some two decades, shed the business gear and pulled on the gumboots to begin growing some of the finest tomatoes in the Lower Mainland at Sapo Bravo Organics in Lytton, tomatoes that have some of Vancouver’s top restaurant chefs lining up to put them on their menus.
Was it difficult to switch from an urban or suburban workforce and lifestyle to one dependent on the vagaries and promises of the land and the weather? What role did market forces play in their start-ups? What keeps them going?
“The workshop will look at the challenges and rewards of switching over to farming from another career,” said LSAF Board President Dave Melnychuk.
“The speakers we have lined up have all done it, they’ve gone through the process of starting up, they’ve experienced the hurdles and made the mistakes. They’ve all worked very hard, and they’ve all found their ways to success.”
Cost is $15 for tickets purchased online at brownpapertickets.com, or $20/cash only at the door.
The workshop will be held at the Langley Events Centre, 7888 200 St., from 8:30 a.m. to noon.