Helmer’s Organic Farm
Posted on Wednesday, 16 February 2022 under Stories
Anna Helmer is a fourth-generation potato farmer working the soils of the Pemberton Valley at Helmer’s Organic Farm. The Helmers began growing potatoes in Pemberton in 1980 and continue to sell their produce through farmer’s markets, in CSA boxes, to restaurants and at their roadside stand. They grow up to eighteen varieties of potatoes, some for consumption and others for seed. They exceed their organic certification by following biodynamic methods of farming to build exceptional soil fertility. They achieve this with biodynamic preparations, watching the land closely for changes, and reducing external inputs.
Helmer has been involved in the Slow Food Movement for over a decade. Helmer says, “Slow food, to me, is just paying attention to where your food is coming from.” The Slow Food Movement believes that “Through our food choices we can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed, and change the world as a result.”
In 2005, with significant development pressure on farmland in Pemberton, Helmer and Lisa Richardson started Slow Food Cycle Sunday. The main goal of the event is to allow residents and out-of-towners to experience the importance of farmland and fresh produce. The soil in Pemberton is unique and having farms be turned into development properties was devastating. Helmer says, “To grow good potatoes you need to have a lot of nutrients in the soil. Pemberton is well equipped.” After a lot of thought and conversations back and forth, Helmer and Richardson thought up Slow Food Cycle Sunday. Helmer remembers, “We thought if people could come here, and see Pemberton, they might realize that they want their food to come from here. I figured if we got lots of people up here they wouldn’t be able to help themselves.” She continues, “If they had to visit farms by bike they would get quite hungry and be able to eat whatever we could put together for them.” The first year, more people came than expected. That number has continued to grow and now the event sees three to four thousand people every year on the third Sunday in August. There are, more or less, four farms that participate in the tour as stops, however other farms bring products to the main farms to showcase their farms. Now a happy participant in the event, Helmer is overjoyed to see the event be such a huge success and to see the amount of interest in local food production.
Paying attention to where your food comes from is important. Helmer says, “It’s just smart to have more control over something that you absolutely have to do. Eating is a mandatory event, every day.” Helmer’s Organics creates relationships with members of the community to give people space to ask questions about their farming practices and learn about how their food is grown. Talking to farmers is the best way to learn more about local agriculture and local food production.