Permaculture Farm Stay on Denman Island
Farm Stay by Lindsay Graf
As I bump towards a barn shaped-home in the shadow of Denman Island’s steepest ridge, a friendly strong man gives a saluting wave; must be Shayne Barker. Tracy Horovatin, the matron of Ruby Slipper Ranch, approaches and makes a joke about not being in Kansas anymore. Laughing, she explains that they like to call themselves “accidental farmers” who followed their combined dreams, which led to this land-sharing permaculture farm. They are carving out an alternate way of life, very much learning as they go.
As we walk around, Tracy explains that permaculture is about creating sustainable systems between plants, animals, soil, and people. I’m struck with the abundance all around me, unlike anything I’ve experienced. Tracy explains how eating farm-grown food has been a learning curve as they got used to eating a seasonal diet and substituting local alternatives for import purchases.
Ruby Slipper has chosen to be a permaculture farm, without focusing on producing profitable commodities. The farm embodies a determination to be less involved in the rat race that is decimating our planet. Tracy explains it’s a “social experiment,” a conscious choice to be debt-free and communal. They first grow food for themselves, then generously share the surplus with their larger community, building “equity” if you will, in relationships. One such relationship is with Tim, their land partner and “gardening guru.”
Tracy recounts some of the little annoyances that come with the shared territory, and I marvel at her honesty, self-awareness and courage. I thought I’d come here because of my curiosity about food systems, but further, I am being exposed to another way of life. Staying here I get to eat food I’ve picked, revere the animal I’m feasting on, and learn about non-monetary economics and trust.
Tonight, along with the hearty beets, we have a fresh kale salad, potatoes, and a retired laying hen.
For years now I’ve intellectually believed that if I am to eat meat I should be connected to where it comes from, make sure the animals have lived happy, free lives and are slaughtered as humanely as possible. I believe that as an omnivore, it is unhealthy, unethical and irresponsible to outsource meat production to factory farms.
The folks at Ruby Slipper recognize that the animals are a valuable part of the whole ecosystem of the farm, and honour the animals by doing the slaughtering themselves. They make use of even the “odd bits”: head cheese, rendered fat and tongue sandwiches. The weight of life is felt here, up from the ground to the large maple tree that forms the banquet table.
Ruby Slipper invites those interested in developing a connection to where their food comes from to join them for a “farm stay” and experience a taste of truly local and sustainable food. As we feast, we are consuming an amazing story of inter-reliance, creativity, and sustenance. I can’t help but feel that I’m being filled, not just with food or hope for a more sustainable future, but with sunshine, love, and proof that a better world is possible.
For more information, or to contact Ruby Slipper Ranch, visit their website.