Metchosin Farm

Posted on Wednesday, 20 April 2022 under Supporting Farmers and Ranchers Featured Farmers

Owned by Fiona Hamersley Chambers and operating since 2004, Metchosin Farm grows 200+ varieties of certified organic, open-pollinated seeds as well as fruit trees, berries, and native species. Importantly, Metchosin Farm also works to create new food seed varieties such as ‘strawberry cherry’ tomato, ‘Metchosin’ apple and ‘My-chosen Purple’ potato. All of their seed crops are open-pollinated and thus can be seed-saved by anyone growing them at their home garden or farm. Seeds are available at their online store and plants can be found at their farmstand.

Photo by Metchosin Farm

Climate change has affected several of Metchosin Farm’s seed crops, like many other farmers across BC. They had several crops distribute seeds before being harvested because of extreme heat during the 2021 June heat dome. Hamersley Chambers says, “Those bean-like pods in some members of the legume family such as lupin, they have an explosive seed distribution mechanism. The pod, when it dries, will suddenly twist and then the seeds fly out.” In the extreme heat, their lupin crop began exploding and dispersing seeds. They also expect to see some damage after this past winter because of cold snaps. Hamersley Chambers says, “We’re going to lose some stuff because of buds freezing solid, especially in the fruit bushes and trees.”

Diversity planting is a key strategy for both climate change adaptation and mitigation. While losing the entirety of a seed crop is not ideal, Metchosin Farm plants a great diversity of crops to reduce the damage when any of the crops fail. Hamersley Chambers says, “​Because of the wide diversity that we grow if we lose a couple of crops like the Lupin or the Camomile that simply shattered in the heat last June, it balances out with other things we’ve planted.”

Metchosin Farm minimizes their carbon footprint by not relying heavily on machinery. This can be challenging and labour intensive for them as farmers but significantly reduces their carbon outputs from machinery. They operate as a low tillage farm and “focus a lot on soil health and disease prevention,” says Hamersley Chambers. She continues, “We’re always mulching and layering up seaweed, grass clippings, hay and other materials and not disturbing our soil. It’s more of a bank for carbon, like a sink, than it would be if you were tilling it.” Cover cropping is a technique to help keep the soil covered and continue to sink and build carbon. At Metchosin Farm, they use a variety of fall rye, clover, buckwheat and often just farm weeds.

Photo by Metchosin Farm

They are home to a great deal of diversity and continue to foster an environment that is friendly to local wildlife, native species, and natural growth, with 4 of the ten acres of the property as forest. They have planted over 800 trees on their property and created a pollinator hedgerow to provide habitat to pollinating species. Hamersley Chambers says “The idea is to have 12 months of the year habitat for pollinating species.”

To deal with waste on the farm, Hamersley Chambers runs a flock of about 100 laying birds for ten months of the year, throwing most of the seed by-products into the chicken run. “Animals are sometimes just the best way to combat a lot of that on-farm waste,” she says. Including animals in production is the perfect way to close the loop on the farm. Chickens work the ground with their feet and produce manure for composting. They are important contributions to regenerating nutrient-depleted areas and capturing carbon.

Photo by Metchosin Farm

“As seed producers, we have a unique responsibility because we’re the base of much of the food system,” says Hamersley Chambers.

It all begins with seed and farmers at Metchosin Farm are acutely aware of their impact. It’s crucial, now more than ever, to implement mitigation strategies and demonstrate leadership in small-scale production across BC. Hamersley Chambers says, “If we can’t succeed at it, then we’re just accepting this increasingly corporatized, industrial and international model as the foundation of a lot of our food system. And I don’t think that’s okay. There is no food security without seed security.”