Lana and Brad Braun of Hummingbird Farm grow their certified organic flowers, fruits and vegetables in Vallican, BC, on the banks of the Slocan River. Lana began to supply the Co-op with her beautiful flower bouquets in 2016, and when she and Brad added a commercial kitchen to their farm later that year we were thrilled to bring in more of their products! This busy farm makes pickled beets, salsa, bruschetta, and sundried tomatoes, just to name a few! Everything is made on farm with their own organic produce!
Who are the farmers at Hummingbird Farm?
Lana and Brad Braun.
How would you describe your farm?
We are an organic farm in Vallican BC, on the amazing Slocan River (certified by KOGS #84). I would describe our focus as organic, ethical, fresh, and local. We try hard to have a small footprint and be as self-sufficient as possible.
What do you grow?
We grow ethical certified organic flowers, as well as organic fruit and vegetables. In addition to fresh flowers in season, you can also find our lovely paper pots of winter and spring bulbs, dahlia tubers and gladiolus corms and fresh strawberries and raspberries. We also have a commercial kitchen on the farm and grow particular crops as ingredients for these products that include pickled beets, salsa, brushetta, sundried tomatoes, and vinegar, most of which you can find at the Kootenay CO-OP! Our goal is 95% plus farm grown ingredients for all of our products.
You are very passionate about ethical flowers. Tell us more about what this means.
Folks may find the word ethical odd…but in the flower context it is actually very relevant. Most of the fresh cut flowers in North America currently come from Colombia and other countries, often with loose regulations on the use of pesticides and herbicides. Flowers are among the most highly chemically treated items that you touch. To me this is an ethical issue because it has a tremendous impact on the workers on those very labour intensive factory farms. Not only are they being poorly paid, they are being poisoned! Beyond that, the local environmental impact on the communities from toxic runoff into waterways is significant. There is also the issue of the carbon footprint of transport.
To me, flowers are one of the big local, ethical choices we can make. I recall as a teenager huge protests and boycotts of Dole due to their treatment of workers on banana plantations – they were spraying toxic chemicals right on crops and workers from planes! If people had more awareness of the impact of that typical beautiful bunch, I think there would be a huge outcry. I hope that happens, and that we can do our part to provide flowers locally and to build a global focus and awareness for fair trade and organic flowers. I would love to see people seeking local organic flowers in season, and fair trade organic flowers other times of the year.
You also do a lot of value-added on-farm processing, and your products are some of the most closed-loop, farm-to-table products that I have seen! Is it true that you make your own pickling vinegar and smoke your own chipotle?
Yes, its true! I have been making hand crafted vinegar for almost 20 years, mostly out of apple cider. When we bought the farm in 2013 and had our own apples and pears, this was a natural focus. We press and ferment our own juice and transform this into vinegar. The process takes a year and we try to also age for a year. Pickled beets using our own vinegar was a natural! This summer we are expanding to do pickled beans as well as some other test pickled products. Working with the Co-op deli bar manager, Christoph, has been amazing for the pickled products!
Our goal is to have 95% or more of every product’s content grown on our farm. This leaves us very little wiggle room and really focuses our efforts. Although we don’t always make it, we try! This meant that smoking our own peppers for our chipotle salsa was a natural thing to do. We use our apple wood and of course our own peppers which are a mix of Jalapeno and New Mexico that improve the depth of flavor as they hold the smoke so well.
Our sundried tomatoes (vegan jerky!) became a natural product of tomato surplus. We make all of our products fresh as we pick them in season. Some weeks this meant too many tomato’s and not enough of something else. What to do? Dry them of course! The quality and flavor of these frankly shocked me… so we will definitely keep doing them and will plan for surplus to make sure!
We hope that you enjoy the fruits of this effort in a not only truly local product, but extremely local product – grown and made, right here in the Kootenays with love.
How long have you been farming?
We have owned this farm for since 2013, and we have been a fully certified organic farm since 2015.
What motivated you to start?
For me, this was all about coming home. I was born and raised in the Kootenays, and have spent 20 years away so it is so good to be home! For both Brad and I, we have a big interest in learning and experimentation. We also both love the lifestyle, being outside all of the time, skiing in the winter, etc.
What are some of your greatest joys?
Brad loves his morning coffee and looking out at the flowers, trees and birds. I love cutting and forming the fresh flower bunches with great music. Both of us love the endless supply of fresh food.
What are some of your greatest challenges?
My biggest challenge is the horsetail weeds… pull, pull, beg it not to grow back, amend soil, pull, repeat….
Brad’s challenge is the endless to-do list that he feels like he can never get through, as I continuously add to it!
What is your vision for your farm?
To continue to nurture the landscape of this farm, take it back from invasive weeds and revive it after years of neglect. We want to create an amazing beautiful space to hang out and watch the birds and bees. To create a space that our four kids want to come home and enjoy with us. Our goal is to earn a living wage, to sustain the land, grow abundance, and have fun doing it.
Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
It’s our friends and neighbors who are growing and making these products, and this is a gift for the community. Local is fresh and tasty and creates a sustainable system. Beyond this, the impact of shipping imported foods on the environment and the world is significant. We need to think about that and be in tune with this impact. We believe that we should be more in touch with the seasons and live more completely in them. That is, root crops in the winter, not fresh tomatoes. This makes you appreciate everything more! If we focus on local, our expectations need to shift to not expect everything all of the time.
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members/customers, what would it be?
We are passionate about this labour of love and your joy of our products is the icing on the cake. Local is worth it for all of us. Our deep thanks and gratitude for your support!