Meet Your Farmer

That’s me, Farmer Rin (notice how all the kids’ stories about farmers always assume the farmer is a man?)


I started this farm as an experiment, an answer to a problem.  I want to live in Vancouver because this is where my friends, my community are.  I also want to live autonomously; by this I mean that I don’t want to work my ass off to make somebody else rich, I don’t want to work some job that I need to keep in order to pay for the car I need to get to the job.  I want to do work that is meaningful and real, work that needs to be done because it has inherent value, not work that needs to be done only to make more work in order to continue existing.  The problem is that living in the city means interfacing with a system that doesn’t value my kind of work, doesn’t speak any language except money, property, scarcity, acquisition.  The problem for me was how to reconcile these two realities, make space for my kind of values in a place where they are foreign and in some cases even antithetical.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the realities of the world that we live in.  I don’t have some sort of utopian vision, I don’t think there’s a perfect world out there waiting to blossom where everything will be perfect and everyone will agree with each other.  I also understand that we can’t just escape into self-righteous isolation; I know that even though we didn’t necessarily create this mess, we were born into it and whether we like it or not, it’s our collective responsibility to clean it up because nobody is going to do it for us.  It’s kind of like that pile of dishes in the sink; nobody knows whose dishes they are, there’s probably some there from everybody, but if someone doesn’t clean them up they’re going to start breeding flies.

I also understand that it took thousands of years of empires, armies, wars, greed, and destruction to get us to where we are and we’re not going to fix it all in one lifetime.  There are so many problems, so many issues to worry about, it’s easy to lose sight of where we are and not know where to start.  It’s also easy to get paralyzed with fear, to be so caught up in articulating what’s wrong that we forget to act or to be so worried that our actions will cause harm that we’re afraid to.

The answer to all of these things, for me, is food.  Food is the one place where I see all these issues intersecting; inequality, disparity, environmental destruction, animal rights, human rights — all are implicated and invoked in every bite of food we eat.  Who grew it?  Where?  Under what conditions and with what resources, inputs, machinery? How will it effect my body, my children, my neighbours?  There is no single issue approach to food, it is inherently complex and always changing, just like our world at large.  And no matter where we come from or what differences we have with each other there is always this: everybody eats.  Even if we disagree about everything else, at least we can agree that everyone needs food and if there’s one common interest we share, it’s that we have a right to eat what we like, when we like, without destroying anyone else’s right to do the same.

And then there is also this: when the markets collapse and the governments fall and there’s no more power lines and no more shopping malls and no more gas stations and all we have is our wits and each other to depend on, there will still need to be farmers.  I intend to live as if that world is already here, as if the revolution has already happened.  So I grow vegetables.  I grow vegetables and share with others what I’ve learned so that they can grow some too.  And then, when that collapse does come, whether it’s in a thousand years or tomorrow around lunchtime, we’ll be ready.

In the meantime, growing food for my living means I get to live a lifestyle I want to live.  I have the freedom to create the world I want to live in right now, not in some mythical utopian future.  I hope that by doing so I can learn and share things that allow others to do the same.


11 Responses

  1. Beautifully spoken and could not agree with you more.

  2. Way to go Farmer Rin!
    I absolutely agree with your view. I too want to live autonomously, however, I know nothing about farming. I am so glad to have come across you in Edible Vancouver Mag. as I have been looking for a way to get informed. I look forward to enrolling in one of your upcoming courses.

  3. I was in the GRS class that you visited the other day, and didn’t have a chance to tell you how inspiring your story is – I think of how little space you have to garden, and yet look at how much you are able to produce! Keep it up…I am definitely looking into developing my home’s 4 acre land to vegetable crops!

  4. […] I used one of the techniques Farmer Rin taught us: plotting out what you’re going to plant, grow and harvest over the seasons using a […]

  5. i enjoyed reading this very much so and totally agree with your views on things! this too has been my philosophy and a challenge for many years as i tried to find healthy and sustainable ways to incorporate myself and my family somehow into this society – and keep my sanity intact!
    there is something very wonderful about not having to buy dead produce pretty much all year round, or spend outrageous prices on what i can organically grow myself. last year i grew everything in a 10×10′ community plot, this year’s challenge is to grow everything on my patio!

  6. …”Don’t get me wrong, I understand the realities of the world that we live in. I also understand that it took thousands of years of empires, armies, wars, greed, and destruction to get us to where we are”…
    Really? Better think again.
    I guess I would give your ideas more credence if you actually had a clue about “where we are” instead of writing one more low information whine that has come to epitomize the latest politically correct personal manifesto. To whine is to live is the motto.

    ‘I know that even though we didn’t necessarily create this mess, we were born into it …” so, in this “mess” and amid the “war, greed, empire” etc etc that you bemoan, where does the following fit?
    Clean and hot water right out of the tap.
    Flush toilets. Warm houses. Hate cars? Bet you love ambulances! Hospitals, Free healthcare. Free education. (really provided by those who actually pay taxes). Electricty. Airplanes that sell incredibly inexpensive tickets to anywhere in the world.
    Medical innovation and healthier lives. I am confident that your life is much bettter thanks to your parents and their generation. Also, I am confident that when it comes to the above you are as avaricious as those you decry when it comes to acquiring all that you now view as your entitlements and you fully take advantage of all of these blessings that have come about through the creativity, passion and hard work of others with more optomistic attitudes and an actual work ethic. People who believed that their talents and innovations would help the world. And they do.
    Sure, you don’t want to work too hard. Fortunately for you many people do.

    You mention kids in passing but guess you will not be having any kids then. Because, it is really impossible to live the “self isolation” that you claim you reject but that clearly have already adopted, and at the same time, buy that house you’ll need to house that kid, pay those taxes for schools and get those kids to soccer parctice just to name a couple of essentials.
    Your eternal pessimism about our world will be the trap that wastes your life. Markets will rise and fall, cultures will change with immigrations…we are global and governance will adapt to it. Your self righteous whining about the imperfections of the world will attract many other whiners but all in all…will accomplish nothing.
    But hey…I wish you well.

    • You know, when I came in from working in my garden in the hot sun all day to find a comment telling me that I’m a hypocrite and that I’m lazy (how much dirt is under YOUR fingernails, dear reader?) I thought about not approving the above comment. After all, personal attacks against another person’s beliefs are not something I think are very helpful. But, I think most people will recognize that this is someone arguing for the sake of arguing. Either that or someone who is so threatened by other people making different choices than them that they have to cut down anyone who does or thinks differently than they do. In our house we have an expression — “The Stone Throwing Team” — for people who throw negativity at folks who are acting on their beliefs, instead of getting up and acting on their own beliefs. We also have another expression: help with your hands, not with your mouth.

      However, what I won’t do is let this blog become a flame war, because that’s really childish. If anyone has thoughtful things to say I’d love to hear them. But if all a person wants to do is make asshole assumptions about what someone else thinks and what that person will do in the future, this isn’t the place to do that. I think the place to do that is called television. You probably own one. I definitely don’t.

    • Haha, no matter how hard we work. We can not change the fact that this civilization is subsidized by cheap energy in the form of oil. When you begin to understand this, you will realize that you have been sold a false bill of goods. Waking up to this can be painful because yes, you will need to cooperate with others once again. And communication is a big part of this.

      • My comment was adressed to Kateliz.

        Farmer Rin, I am totally on the same page as you. I encounter a lot of resistance to my views as well, so I know how you feel. There is a lot of ignorance out there right now. Not everyone understands what is really happening right now and I think they are scared.

        All I know is that I feel happy when I am in my garden, and I imagine it growing bigger and bigger as time goes by. This year, I have grown and eaten my own cilantro, basil, lettuce, radishes and tomatoes. I have never enjoyed a hobby so much as this. I really enjoy doing things that have a tangible results and that taste great too.

        But I guess its not for everyone. There are those that still think we are going to get out of this mess with genetically modified crops, one world bank, one world government and enhanced security measures to keep all the terrorists at bay. Yikes.

  7. I just came across this site and have really enjoyed reading your posts. Thank you for all the work you do to share this concept with others and inspiring other Vancouverites to be more aware of where their food comes from. I hope to take part in one of your workshops when I can afford it!
    Keep it up 🙂

  8. Hallo Rin,
    Having just read the article in “Communities” magazine where you, among others, were interviewed about the benefits of communal living, I thought that I would check out your website. What you write and what you do seem to be proof that small permaculture projects can be relevant in an urban setting and provide food for a number of people. I wish you success in passing on your knowhow to others and hope that you get no problems from farming where other people have non-productive lawns. When the crunch really comes, when people realise peak oil has happened, then maybe we will go back to growing more of our own food, and hopefully, doing it cooperatively.
    In solidarity,
    frank @ Kommune Niederkaufungen in Germany.

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