Hamsa and Pete from Bee Greens have been digging for decades and their relationship with the Co-op dates back to their beginnings. We are proud to carry their beautiful True Local organic garden starts, all of which are lovingly sown by hand in the Slocan Valley.
Who are the farmers at Bee Greens?
Hamsa Woods and Pete O’Slevin.
Where are you located?
In the Slocan Valley, just north of Winlaw.
What do you grow?
We grow certified organic bedding plants including annual vegetables and flowers, and some herbs. Our specialty is open pollinated heirloom varieties, concentrating on varietals which we know do well in this climate.
How long have you been farming?
Our love affair with plants began 30 odd years ago out of Brenda Elder’s basement and grew, literally, into what Bee Greens is today.
Elderbee Greens was Brenda Elder’s baby nearly 40 years ago. She sold her plants to the Co-Op when both businesses were just fledglings. Elderbee Greens grew over the decades into a booming little business and we began woofing there in 1996. Along with other farm duties, we helped with the greenhouse business and loved it. We were market gardeners at the time. We took over the business after a decade of working for Brenda when she was ready to retire, and Bee Greens was (re)born!
What motivated you to start?
Pete and I arrived in the Kootenays in 1996 as a married couple. We were long-time tree planters turned farmers. We were looking to ground out and not work so hard…what were we thinking becoming farmers!!!
We fell in love with farming and we’ve been digging for decades! We are not married anymore but we are still business partners and best friends.
How would you describe your farm operation/your company?
What makes this little operation fairly unique is that we start everything from seed ourselves. We buy a few cuttings from a neighbouring greenhouse to augment in the fancy flower department, but every other vegetable, herb and flower is sown and transplanted by hand.
We begin sowing at the end of January and by the end of February the propagation room is full. By March all the hardier veggies and flowers move into the greenhouse, which is heated by a huge barrel stove. In the waning days of winter and early spring the team here spells each other off for who gets to do the 2 a.m. stoke to keep everyone toasty. It’s an old school system but it works great and we’re crazy enough to do it.
By spring, the heated greenhouse is full with approximately 5,000 tomatoes and peppers and tens of thousands of broccoli, kale, lettuce and so many other green babies ready for sale!
Our wholesale outlets provide us with the bulk of our sales, with the Kootenay Co-Op and Nelson Farmers Supply being our largest customers. They have both been such supporters over the years, especially when we first took over from Brenda and were still figuring out what we were doing! We also sell from our own farm-gate and at a few locations in the Slocan Valley.
We deliver the wholesale orders in 2000 Mitsubishi Delica with custom shelving just for plants. Our driver is quite a sight as he powers off in the right-hand drive 4×4 moon bus busting with plants!
What are some of your greatest joys?
Really our greatest joy is being with the plants, the seeds, the soil. It is also meaningful here on the farm during retail season when we get to share stories with the gardening community face to face and have them appreciate the plants and what we’re doing. We really are grateful that this is our job.
What are some of your greatest challenges?
Most of our bumps have to do with the weather and our learning curve. We’re still learning how to not get stressed out. We still have lots to learn.
What is your vision for your farm/company?
Our vision is to do what we’re doing but even better. We may expand the business a little but not hugely.
Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
Local food is important to us because it’s the best for you individually and of course for the planet.
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members/customers, what would it be?
Grow your own food as much as you can and buy from your local farmers! We work hard. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!