Happy Hills Farm

Posted on Thursday, 12 May 2022 under Stories

Tucked into the Monashee Mountains in the West Kootenays, Happy Hills Farm is an off-grid regenerative market garden run by Miche Warwick, Dan Hayden, and their four kids. Warwick and Hayden are passionately committed to contributing to climate solutions and providing food for their community in Rossland, BC.

Warwick and Hayden grow a diversity of vegetables on five acres of space at Happy Hills Farm. They also grow certified organic microgreens year-round through their business Flourish MicroFarm and in 2021, Warwick and Hayden opened a store, the Rooted Table Collective in downtown Rossland. The Rooted Table Collective focuses entirely on selling goods from local farmers, creating a space where people can access seasonal produce year-round.

They believe growing food for their community is the most meaningful work they can devote their time towards. Warwick describes, “With so many crazy things going on in the world with the environment and climate change, growing food is something we can tangibly do to contribute to something better.”

Photo by Happy Hills Farm

Warwick and Hayden’s passion for growing food began in their backyard. Their initial impetus for growing food was their desire to make their lifestyles as sustainable as possible. Hayden describes, “We had a couple of kids and were starting to focus more on the impact that we were going to have on the environment.” Seeking out ways to make their lifestyle more climate-friendly, Hayden says, “It seemed like backyard gardening and being conscious about the food we ate was one of the big things that we could do to make a change.”

They saw growing food as an opportunity to positively impact the environment while also giving themselves and their kids the most nutritious food they could possibly have. “We turned our backyard into a garden,” Hayden recounts, “And quickly realized that we weren’t able to produce nearly enough food with that square footage. We started to look around in the community for other unused spaces.” They expanded their gardening space by using unused spaces in the yards of their neighbours and community members, sharing the produce they grew.

Taking time off to recover from a mountain biking accident, Hayden did a deep dive on local food and the environmental impacts of our food systems. Learning about how they could positively impact the environment and their community, they began to entertain the idea of starting a farm. Over the next three years, they transitioned out of their full-time jobs into farming.

Photo by Shauna Ullman

To start Happy Hills Farm, Warwick and Hayden sold their extra furniture, snowboarding and skiing gear, and mountain bikes, and leased five acres of off-grid land. Warwick recounts, “We started Happy Hills Farm unofficially in 2017 with blank fields.” They started with heritage meat chickens while gradually transforming the pasture into garden beds by hand.

Warwick and Hayden were determined from the get-go that they would farm without tractors and machinery. Although machines would make much of their work easier, they have made a conscious decision to continue to farm by hand.

One of the primary reasons they farm by hand is the importance they place on caring for the soil.

We quickly learned that we’re more farmers of the soil than we are the vegetables,” Hayden describes.

The impact of tractors on soil and the risk of contamination from a broken hydraulic line or leaking oil, albeit a small one, is not worth the savings in time and effort for them. The capital expenditure needed to acquire machines, their need for ongoing maintenance, and disruptive noise also contributes to the decision.

Warwick and Hayden place an enormous emphasis on ensuring that their farming practices are climate-friendly. They aim to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to climate solutions. Warwick says, “Beyond just sustaining where we’re at, we need to be regenerating.” They invite folks in their community to visit the farm, believing in accountability and transparency.

Photo by Happy Hills Farm

At Happy Hills Farm, they grow a wide diversity of produce. Growing food at over 1,000 metres of elevation, they have a shorter growing season with the risk of a late spring frost or early fall frost. Over the years, they have honed their crop plans to fit the unique parameters of the place they are in.

Farming at Happy Hills Farm is deeply meaningful and rewarding for both Warwick and Hayden. “It’s incredible to be so grounded in the reality of the world that’s around us and be present with the biome that we’re in,” Hayden shares. “It allows us an opportunity to introduce our kids to the local food system from a young age and have them involved in it and aware of what’s going on and why we’re doing things,” he continues.

The crises of climate change, environmental destruction, and injustice are overwhelming. Warwick and Hayden grow food to tangibly contribute to something more positive. Warwick says, “I think it’s the best thing that we can do with our lives, and that’s where our passion is being fueled from.”