The fine art of farming goes grassroots
// Leah Scheitel

Imagine a farm in the beautiful Slocan Valley, an hour’s drive from Nelson. This farm is like any other, with pigs, goats, horses, and chickens. Harvested from the garden are garlic, strawberries, and raspberries. But the White Crow Farm in Winlaw, BC also grows something original and unique by empowering local music and art, creativity, and the spread of knowledge on sustainable living.

White Crow Farm where the project has its roots is not your typical petting zoo – it aims to be a West Coast hub for urban and rural farming to come together, along with creative artistic and musical projects, and spirituality. White Crow Farm celebrates sustainable living and educates others on how to live peacefully within their community and the surrounding environment.

What makes this project different from other sustainable culture campaigns is that it was founded and run by passionate youth with strong urban roots that allow them, through their connections, to be creative with their projects by incorporating music, video, website, and social media. This seems to appeal to a younger and perhaps more urban audience, and through this connection the project is able to reach more people in the cities, thus educating them on the benefits of sustainable living, and how possible it is to accomplish in their own backyards.

White Crow Farm

Timothy Fenton, the general livestock manager, founded the Farm six years ago. It gained supporters through the electronic music festivals around BC, such as Shambhala and Basscoast, and has now grown into a co-op farm.

White Crow was inspired by the methods of Joel Salatin, an American farmer and author. His farm, the Polyface, was the subject for documentaries Food Inc. and Fresh, as well as Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

”We have a different style,” explains Daman Chouinard, who lives and works on the farm full-time, “but the methods of Joe Salatin are the fundamentals, and moving into some elements of natural farming. We are trying to produce everything on site as much as possible.”

They started out small, and are slowly growing, and sharing their harvests at local Farmer’s Markets around the Nelson area.

“We try to do the whole farm thing instead of just one thing,” Chouinard continues. “We try to do direct marketing in the sense that we can produce a little bit of many things, and supply a lot of things for a few people, rather than one thing to a lot of people. In the gardens, our main crop this year was garlic, but also focusing in on raspberries, strawberries, and edamame soybeans as well.”

Currently, there are six people living on the farm full time, but others interested in the project continually come and go. Everyone pitches in to do their share of the work, creating a strong community feel, like a family of like-minded farmers.

Art and music plays its part

Because the farm was established by young urbanites, incorporating art and music into the project is a priority for them. Syd Woodward, spokesman for the farm and project, explains that “a very important part [of the project] to us is tying in music and art to the farm. There is such a strong art and music presence here ... [We] also do artist spotlights, artist interviews, and cool different things with music.”

In their goal of promoting local artists and showcasing their work, The White Crow Farm Project's current phase of action is building a website so that the project is not limited only to the Kootenay’s. Eventually, they would like to focus on artists from around the world who are using creative means to encourage others to learn about sustainable living.

“We can use this project to promote not just the people around us,” explains Woodward, “but [people] from all over the world who are doing really cool things with art.” Woodward does not want the website to only focus on farming and agriculture: he believes that by incorporating artistry, the project's website will be more cohesive, and thus appeal to a wider audience.

Grounded TV Network

“The project is going to be two elements,” explains Woodward, “It’s going to have a web and digital presence, but we also want to mix different aspects, like getting your hands dirty. So we want to start doing workshops out here on the farm. There is going to be a cool balance of the two worlds: the digital and the physical.”

Bering part of The White Crow Farm project compliments Woodward's other venture, the Grounded TV Network, which is an online network dedicated to circulating stories that are culturally and socially relevant. The network has a variety of shows and “webisodes” that focus on music, pop culture, and environmental issues awareness.

“The White Crow Farm project is going to be a sister project of Grounded TV,” explains Woodward. “It’s kind of what got me going in this sustainable culture. It’s been really cool to see the kind of community that’s been growing around. The Grounded TV Network really supported the different things we were posting, like the urban and rural agriculture and the food movement. And the community that we built was really starving for it, and really shared it and supported it. It’s cool that we built a community of concious people.”

He goes on to explain, “The cool thing about this area is the local community, being so close to Nelson, and being in this very creative area…It’s just a wicked mix of arts and ruggedness. There is such a strong artist community, which is why a project like this will flourish here.”

Surrounding Communities' Thoughts

So far, the surrounding communities have been very receptive to the project. Because the farm artistically documents the daily on-goings and inner workings of their farm, local artists and farmers have been excited to see the creative influences the farm has had.

“The thing about their project is that it is absolutely necessary, because so many people don’t know where their food is coming from,” explains Alina Skiba, a local clothing designer who founded the Frog Peak Farmers Market this summer. “You read about sustainable living, you know it’s trendy to be nature orientated, but you don’t actually know how to do it.”

Skiba believes that Nelson and the Slocan Valley are a perfect fit for a project of this kind. “When you have a project like this, with a community that practices sustainable living around it, it makes it a good example for other communities. They [the White Crow Farm Project] are going outside of their niche market to try and educate people, but they are doing it by portraying their own backyard. It’s great.”

Urban Farming

“More and more people are moving to cities, and it’s going to happen. There is no point in denying it,” Woodward continues. “We now have to look at ‘How can we make this [lifestyle] work in cities?’”

“I’m inspired by cities down in Brazil; there are cities there that produce the entire amount of food that the city needs and export purely from within the city limits.”

Vancouver has great potential for both urban farming, where individuals garden on volunteered land in cities, and spin farms, where neighbours use each other’s land to create a garden and harvest enough crops and vegetable to feed their neighbourhood. Including an urban element to the project to inform people on the values of local produce is an important part of the entire project.

Raising Funds

The White Crow Farm Project is launching a fundraising campaign with, with hopes of raising $20,000. The funding will be used to build the website, obtain proper film equipment to document the farm, and promote the White Crow Farm Project on a global scale. They are always looking for help, by word of mouth or through social media networking: reaching out by using Facebook to invite your friends to join their page (which can be found by searching “White Crow Farm” on Facebook) is the best way for people to be involved at this point.

The White Crow Farm Project breeds something different; it binds together elements of urban and rural agriculture, artistry, creative expression, live animals, food production, and a strong sense of community.

More information and video clips can be found on the Grounded TV Network’s website at

// Leah Scheitel

// Artwork by Sarah Taylor

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