Kelowna Jaycees Farm Project grows produce for charity and passion for gardening | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna Jaycees Farm Project grows produce for charity and passion for gardening

Volunteer Molly Kirby is pictured helping out at the Kelowna Junior Chamber International Farm Project in Kelowna.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Kelowna Junior Chamber International Farm Project
August 27, 2020 - 6:00 AM

The Kelowna Junior Chamber International Farm Project began with a quarter acre of Kelowna farmland, no funding and a little group of volunteers who didn't know much about farming.  

Last year, the Trinity Baptist Church Foundation offered a piece of their 23-acre community farm Helen's Acres to Kelowna chapter of the junior chamber known as the Jaycees. Project chair David Kemp was quick to take the opportunity to start a community farm.  

“We took it over, a small rag-tag group of people, self-funded,” he said.

They had no money, but a simple goal: Grow food for charity. 

"We scraped together enough stuff to farm about half of it. But we did it all wrong," he said.

While the group wasn’t short on passion, they were lacking on gardening experience. However, the year wasn’t a total loss.

“Most of it was a disaster, but we had some really big successes,” he said. “We had tons of potatoes that came off, tons of squash."

Kemp’s original idea was simply to farm the land, and donate the produce to the Karis Support Society, a non-profit organization that provides resources and support for women recovering from addiction and mental health challenges.

However, in the past two years, the project has had other positive effects in the community Kemp didn’t anticipate.

"Everyone who came out to the farm last year are building home gardens, hatching chickens at home, and are going back out this year with a renewed passion,” he said. "It’s kind of like we’re bringing a new generation of people into farming."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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A post shared by JCI Farm Project (@jcifarmproject) on

This year, the group approached the growing season with the lessons they’d learned from last year’s mishaps in mind, putting resources into planning and research.

Some volunteers, although they aren’t farmers, have applied their own career expertise to benefit the project.

“That’s what’s really cool, everyone is providing their little piece that they do,” Kemp said.

A landscaper helped with setting up irrigation, and another member involved in data analysis has taken charge of tracking growth on the farm.

“It’s infectious, people start seeing what we’re doing, working hard, seeing us failing, and they buy in,” he said. "They really want to help."

Over the past year, project volunteers ran several fundraising initiatives to support the farm. Kemp hopes that in years to come, they can get more land and even more volunteers involved in the project.

Volunteers working the field at the Kelowna Junior Chamber International Farm Project in Kelowna.
Volunteers working the field at the Kelowna Junior Chamber International Farm Project in Kelowna.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / JCI Farm Project

“I’d like it to be a community resource where people can learn about gardening and make mistakes,” he said. “And all the while, grow a ton of produce for the community."

The events they had planned for this year had to be postponed due to COVID-19, but Kemp hopes to make them a reality next season.

“We would have a sauerkraut-making session with all the cabbages coming off, so we could teach people what to do,” he said. “Or we’d have a hot sauce making lesson with all the hot peppers."

Education has always been, and will continue to be, a central component to the project.

"We’ve concentrated a huge amount on not only getting the farming right, but also getting the word out,” he said. "Just trying to share what we’re doing and share the beauty of the farm."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The farm is open for anyone who wants to visit, help out or just learn about growing their own food.

“At 9 a.m. every Saturday from May until the end of October, we’re going to be out there and welcome anyone to come out,” he said.

Kemp added that all visitors leave with some fresh produce from the farm, free of charge.

The plot is located at 2424 Mayer Road in Kelowna. 

To donate to the Farm Project, click here. 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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