Although this was the final week of farm gate stand sales at the Healthy Harvest garden, produce will still be available, thanks to a dedicated volunteer.
Frank Howie just moved to Port Alberni in June, but he jumped right into the community with helping hands. Raised as a farm boy, he has a strong work ethic and deep appreciation and knowledge of growing food. He grew up on a back country mixed farm in Northern Alberta, where the family lived off of what they grew in the garden.
“My mom trained me well as a farm person,” Frank said.
At 15, Frank moved to New Zealand where he lived off and on for sixteen and a half years. In between, he attended university and travelled throughout Europe, and for the most part, worked as a chef. When his elderly mother moved to Port Alberni last year from the United States, Frank soon followed.
He arrived late in the gardening season, but managed to grow his own lot of tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and herbs at home, but has plans for producing even more next year. When he heard about the Alberni Valley Gleaning Project, Frank quickly got involved in the local scene. As someone who does not like to slow down, he found there was not enough work to do once fruit picking and market sales declined, so the project’s lead, Sarah Thomas, introduced him to her brother, Charles, a volunteer with Healthy Harvest.
“I ended up taking on this, as well,” he said. “It is important to grow your own food, number one, to feed yourself, and also to make sure you are getting quality food. If you are getting quality food, you can live healthy and comfortably. Nowadays buying food is not a cheap scenario.”
Throughout the season, up until this week, Frank helped with a bit of everything at Healthy Harvest, and this week was digging up root vegetables, including an abundance of Jerusalem artichokes, as well as preparing beets for pickling. Rather than close sales while there is still enough produce growing to share, Frank will be bringing what the garden has every Saturday to the Spirit Square Farmers’ Market.
“I’ll be taking beets, carrots, turnips, chard and herbs for now,” he said. “We have enough root vegetables in the garden to get through to Easter.”
After that, Frank intends to provide baked goods.
Make sure to stop by Frank’s stand at Harbour Quay on Saturdays and support a worthy cause; he enjoys talking to local residents and meeting new people.
“The people are nice here,” he said. “A lot of people have been here a long time, so that in itself tends to make a place interesting.”