Two Roads Farm navigates pandemic through hard work, innovation and community
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March, Two Roads Farm operators Sam Croome and Emily Anderson were mainly concerned about the pre-school closing and what to do with their two toddlers, Wilf, 5, and Alasdair, 21 months, while working their small commercial farm operation. Learning is now on the land as their farmer parents navigate this difficult year with community support, an incredible volunteer crew, a new farm stand, and a new online store through Local Line.
Initially, sales at the Denman Island Farmer’s Market and through the Denman General Store increased as locals stayed and shopped on the island. Two Roads Farm adapted their produce market stand at the Denman Island recycling centre to include wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer. The Denman Island Farmer’s Market is in full swing now and the market stand traffic is steady.
However, as more restrictions were announced an d restaurants shut down throughout BC, Sam says, “We lost 60-75% of our wholesale trade to off-island restaurants and grocers.”
The work has been nonstop this year, but they are grateful for Denman’s volunteer spirit which helped them accomplish more than they expected.
“The volunteer crew, mainly seniors, have been incredible. We’ve had up to 14 people show up to get the work done – field work, building. The farm stand would not have been completed as quickly. We really have to give a shout out to them!”
The new farm stand, a complete overhaul of an existing old cabin on the property, opened in early June, a few weeks later than usual. Sam says, “It was worth the wait! It a nice airy, bright, well-ventilated space.”
They give back each week when they contribute produce to the Denman Food Bank. “We always have excess and it’s not much extra work. It just seems like the right thing to do.”
Islanders’ support is a lifeline
Supporting each other is an island’s lifeline, whether lending a hand or participating in the local economy.
“We buy a lot of Denman Island chocolate. It’s one of the perils of having our stand next to them at the market,” he jokes. “We also buy Denman Island-raised beef, Ima’s Kitchen sourdough bread, Corlan Vineyard’s wine, and as much as possible at the Denman General Store.”
Sam goes a step further to include services. “We use Denman Island tradespeople as much as possible, for plumbing, concrete finishing and the like. If we’re all going to be viable in the long-term, we have to scratch each other’s backs.”
They also provide employment for one full-time and two part-time ‘Denmonites’, plus two full-time students through a Canada Summer Jobs grant.
Chef’s praise for Two Roads Veggies
While locals can tell you that Two Roads Farm has quality produce, they received particularly inspiring praise from Chef Dan Hayes during filming of an episode of Moosemeat & Marmelade in 2018 on Denman Island: “Sam’s vegetables are incredible! They’re fresh, vibrant, they are colourful and they have that sense that they were picked at 5 a.m. with the dew still clinging to them.”
An innovative use of space for growing tomato plants in Two Roads Farm’s greenhouse.
Two Roads’ beginnings
Emily, originally from Toronto, has a background in resource management and sustainability. Sam trained in forest management in Scotland. They met in Canada, married in 2012, and started looking for land to farm.
They had visited relatives on Denman Island, and in 2014 when the right piece of land came up (good soil, water and West-facing orientation) at the right price, they bought the Northwest Road property and started cleaning the land. In 2015, they had their first stand at the Denman Island Farmer’s Market and their first child. They launched commercial wholesales to restaurants and grocers in 2016.
Digital Two Roads Farm
Since then, they’ve embraced modern marketing and sales. You’ll find photos of the farm, the beautiful produce and the adorable children on Facebook and Twitter @TwoRoadsFarm.
They created prepaid market cards a few years ago. “A lot more people have been buying them, which really helps out. For some it lets them shop cash free, but I know some have bought to help us with our cash flow, and it’s very much appreciated. We also are now taking debit card at the market!”
And they have recently incorporated online ordering on their website through Local Line.
‘A small family farm on an island off an island’ is Two Roads’ tagline on their website tworoadsfarm.ca where you can learn more about their farming practices which are informed by the Canadian Organic Standard, Certified Naturally Grown.
A beautiful place with an outstanding community
They are still navigating the child care, taking shifts during the day and working ‘night shift’, as Sam calls it, together on the farm in the evenings.
There are benefits to the farming way of life. “We work long hours, but we get to work outside and raise our kids in a beautiful place with an outstanding community,” says Sam. “Our kids get to eat carrots they pulled out of the soil themselves, catch snakes, and swim in the ocean all in the same day. We have a lot to be thankful for.”
Find Two Roads Farm produce at their farm stand at 1536 Northwest Road, 12-7:30 pm. Six days a week from Wednesday-Monday (closed Tuesday), at the Denman Island Farmer’s Market Saturdays 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m., at the Denman Island General Store, and at the Hornby Island Co-Op.
Written by Trish Weatherall
Published in The Islands Grapevine, August 13, 2020