Finishing a successful career teaching mathematics, then deciding to throw yourself into a regenerative farming course at a university, all at a later stage in life, is unquestionably the path less trodden. Amory Wong did precisely this with only an inkling of knowledge, but with an impassioned willingness to take onboard everything he was taught and, with wife Cat, ultimately give it all back to their community.
The approachable couple now head up Hatzic Humble Roots Farm, based in the namesake community of Mission, in the Fraser Valley. They’re now a popular fixture at the Mission City Farmers’ Market, providing a plentiful selection of vibrant vegetables, succulent fruit, and fresh eggs. Having bought the farm in 1999 as a recreational property it was used for family time principally, letting their city-raised kids run loose around the acres. Farming wasn’t completely alien, of course, they began raising chickens, followed by guinea fowl, sheep, ducks, and then geese. It wasn’t so long until the couple then dabbled in cultivating fruits and vegetables. Three years ago a chance conversation with a client of Cat’s unveiled a new regenerative farming course being taught at the farm school based out of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond. She encouraged her husband to apply. The roots were well and truly laid for the compassionate project that followed.
Mission City Farmers’ Market is crucial to what they’re striving to achieve
For Amory the course provided a complete enlightenment in unveiling some of the worst destructive large-scale farming practices and their startling negative footprints that are all too frequently a reality. For Cat, it simply reaffirmed her long held suspicions, their aims were sealed. And this is where their involvement with Mission City Farmers’ Market is so crucial in what they’re striving to achieve. Providing people, at a local level, with healthy, tasty, nutritious food, replacing the need to use large scale food producers, and to leave the earth a little better than how they found it.
A no-till approach, with minimal mechanical means, is how their 8.5 acres produces bountiful vegetables such as succulent tomatoes, swiss chard, carrots and much more. It’s perhaps their fruit in particular – melons; cantaloupe, watermelon and the intriguing named torpedo melon, that cause the biggest stir at their booth. They use their market time year-on-year to analyze what works for their customers and what doesn’t. Axing the least sold and planting more of what keeps people coming back.
Using regenerative practices, such as soil turning through a broad fork, compost layering, and organic fertilizer spreading doesn’t come without intense work. They’re often both out until 9pm picking crops for the next day’s market. So what’s the payoff? They both profess they’re not in this for profit. It’s a selfless giving of knowledge, for one. Market time allows them a chance to relay and underline the vast benefits of local food security, the health boosting qualities of locally grown produce and maybe most importantly – superior taste. Another glaring positive is community, a genuine wellbeing of other local farmers’ is fostered and reciprocated. Lastly, and Amory in particular puts a fine point on this, the sociability of the market; being able to meet people and chat loosely, not even about farming, week in week out.
Learning, with a big juicy wedge of delicious torpedo melon to accompany pleasant conversation, there’s surely no better way to spend a Saturday morning!