Where are you from?
Nathan: "I was born and raise in Edmonton, Alberta."
Emily: "I grew up in rural Wisconsin and moved to Washington state after leaving the house."
How did you two meet?
Strangely enough we met at Shambhala Music festival right here in the Kootenays in 2015.
Emily was working in Humboldt, California that summer. She had heard of Shambhala and had a strong feeling that she needed to go. The festival was only two weeks away and was completely sold out. Through sheer luck she was able to hunt down a ticket for sale, find a ride share from California to Washington, and then caught a ride from Washington to the Kootenays with some friends who she hardly knew.
On Thursday night of Shambhala that year we met on the dance floor and the rest is history. We dated long distance for a few years, got married and eventually made our way back to the very place where we first met.
What's your background?
Nathan: "I have a diploma in Business and Marketing and I'm a certified Holistic Nutritionist."
Emily: "I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ecological Agriculture and Community Development."
How did you end up in the Kootenays?
We had a dream of starting a farm in the Kootenays but we weren't really sure how it was going to happen. Emily was going to school in Olympia, Washington and Nathan was just starting his first business Level Up Superfoods in Edmonton.
In 2017 Emily immigrated to Edmonton where we spend a year saving up money to move to Nelson. During that year however, we had an opportunity to farm a 1/4 acre on a friends property in Kelowna. It wasn't exactly what we wanted but it was a great opportunity to continue building our farming skills. It was also a lot closer to the Kootenays than Edmonton, so we packed up our lives and set sail for the Okanagan.
We had spent 2 years in Kelowna and our goal of moving to the Kootenays seemed pretty far away. We then came across the Young Agrarians. The Young Agrarians is a government program that helps young farmers find land to farm on. We got involved and within 3 months we had found a match. In November of 2020 we packed up our lives yet again and moved out to Tulaberry Farms in Passmore.
What inspired you to become farmers?
Nathan: My wonderful wife Emily inspired me to become a farmer. After growing up in a big city I was feeling pretty burnt out and unhappy. I wanted to be closer to nature and to do work that really mattered. The idea of growing food for a living had never crossed my mind until I met Emily. She showed me what was possible through farming and together we made our dreams of starting a farm a reality!
Emily: For me it was a combination of wanting to do good in the world, feeling a strong calling to do something about climate change and the state of the environment, and really liking good food. I grew up with a big garden on an acreage, and I was always involved in growing food throughout my formative years. When I went to college, I began to explore my passion for food and farming more deeply. The work was so nourishing to me, I knew I wanted to be a farmer!
How long have you been farming?
Nathan: "3 years."
Emily: "4 years officially, but I've had my hands in the dirt since I could crawl. This is me when I was 3 years old playing with earth worms while my dad prepped our garden back in Wisconsin."
What's your favorite part about farming?
We love being able to work outside with nature. Its very humbling to be outside every single day, witnessing the passing of the seasons. And we feel like we are part of the solution for building the kind of future we want to live in. We're also big foodies, so having access to the freshest food possible is a real treat!
What's the hardest part about farming
Our working hours can get extremely long. During peak season a normal work day is around 12 hours, which makes it hard to do outdoor activities that aren't farming.
What do you do when you're not farming?
We're foodies so when we're not farming we're usually cooking up a storm. We try and spend as much time in nature as we can. We go hiking and camping whenever possible. We also have a lot of fun with our cat, Nomi.
What are your future dreams?
We have a dream of one day opening up a farm-to-table bakery called "Pantry".
We were both gluten-free for many years but during the first COVID shutdown we got really into making sourdough. At the time there was a flour shortage and the only thing we had access to were organic wheat berries from a local grain farm in Armstrong. We decided we would buy some and start milling our own flour.
After tasting bread made from freshly milled flour we knew there was no going back. It was the best tasting bread we have ever had and it didn't make us feel bad like typical bread.
We now bake most days, developing recipes and products for our online shop. Since moving to Tulaberry we now have access to fresh eggs and a ton of fruit for our baking. We have even talked about one day getting a dairy cow so that we could have fresh cream and butter for our baked goods, which would make Pantry and true farm-to-table experience.