Heather Stretch and her son Levi Leatherman

Food gurus dish the dirt on dirt (and other farming tips)

Saanich Organics farming trio produce book called All the Dirt, on organic farming

Heather Stretch’s latest adventure is a pure blend of her master’s degree in English literature, post-secondaary years spent as a cook and the last dozen years as an organic farmer.

The Central Saanich mother of three is one-third of Saanich Organics along with her friends, business partners, fellow farmers and now co-authors, Rachel Fisher and Robin Tunnicliffe.

“A lot of people visit our farms. We do farm tours,” Stretch said. “We’ve often thought it would take a book to answer all the questions people ask.”

So they wrote All the Dirt, reflections on organic farming.

Kismet brought Stretch to her seven-acre certified organic farm in the Mount Newton Valley. She was working as a cook and was at the point in her life where she had a list of ideals in a job when her aunt and uncle called. “Want to be a farmer?” they asked.

“They wanted somebody using the land more productively than it had been used,” she said. With physical and mental stimulation with outdoor work high on her wish list, Stretch chose to farm. With an already green bend to her psyche, she went straight for organics.

“I’ve never grown anything conventionally,” she said.

Not long after, she, Fisher and Tunnicliffe purchased Saanich Organics.

“At the time we bought it, it was just a box program,” she said. Since then the trio has added restaurants to their clientele and increased the box program.

It was Fisher and Tunnicliffe who instigated the book, calling Stretch up one day while she was away on vacation. “We’re going to write a book,” they told her. The game plan was to write from November until the spring planting each year, which is why All the Dirt took six years to create.

“It’s not only people who are considering small scale organic farming who are buying it,” Stretch said. Backyard growers and those interested in food sustainability are purchasing the tome.

“We see big problems with the food system as it exists right now,” she said. It covers the business – what, when, where and how – and personal experiences such as how kids will change the whole game plan, are told in each of the women’s voices.

“I certainly understand how challenging it is to do [small-scale organic farming] and make a living at it,” Stretch said. “But my job satisfaction and reasons for doing it deepen each year.”

The satisfaction and reasoning come through with vivid photos and the occasional giggle in the 228-page book.

Learn more about the box program and the book online at saanichorganics.com.

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