16 year old, Evan Armstrong, started his own job with care of the land by growing local organic foods for 10 families in the community on Waverley Brook Farm this summer. He spends many hours during the week at the farm to make sure his produce is of great quality. / GRACE OBORNE Staff

Haliburton youth grows organic foods for families

By Grace Oborne

Evan Armstrong has a unique way of making sure that local families are eating healthy.

At just 16 years old, Armstrong has created his own summer job – growing local organic foods for 10 local families at Waverley Brook Farm this summer. 

As an athlete, a healthy lifestyle has always been an important aspect of Armstrong’s life, and now he wants to give back to the community.

“Organic food is something that’s very important to me and my family. Eating healthy has always been important, and I’m a big athlete so I like to stay as healthy as possible,” he said.

Jean and Godfrey Tyler spent more than two decades preparing food boxes for families in their earlier years. Now that Jean is retiring, Evan has taken the job of creating the boxes, getting family members to sign up, weeding, and harvesting every Tuesday.

“When we shifted, a number of years ago, out of the food box CSA (community shared agriculture), we invited people to come and learn, but nobody picked up on it until Evan. I can’t do the work that I used to be able to do, and so it’s wonderful that Evan can. When Evan talked with us about it, we met and set up a plan,” said Jean.

“Our goal that we set from the beginning of the year was to raise healthy produce on a large scale for sale. We’re making organic food boxes for people who signed up,” noted Evan.

Another one of Evan’s goals is to make sure that the produce is always fresh.

“The majority of it [the produce] is picked the day the families come. It’s tricky to learn the techniques of harvesting fresh in this kind of heat, and so those are some of the learnings, but he’s figuring it out,” said Jean.

At the beginning of the year, there were flyers sent out at Evan’s parent’s workplace, and to people who came in and out of the farm. From there, 10 families were selected to receive the food boxes weekly.

Every week, Evan puts in long hours to make sure that his produce quality is nothing short of excellent. Each Tuesday, Evan arrives at the farm to harvest for around three hours. Then, throughout the week, he comes to the farm to weed. Jean and Godfrey have helped to prepare the land with manure using a tractor and have the overhead irrigation system in place for the water.

When the time comes to put together the food boxes, Evan said he spends at least 10 minutes on it. Another 10 minutes a week could be added to the time he spends with the food boxes if there is more produce to go around.

“If we have surplus and people would like produce outside of the box, we can certainly do that. That would be another, depending on the week, maybe 10 minutes,” said Evan.

Evan is growing many foods ranging from vegetables to fruits. Some examples include beets, carrots, corn, cilantro, dill, red lettuce, mescaline mix, sugar peas, snap peas, spinach, squash, swiss chard, green beans, yellow beans, purple beans, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, asparagus, rhubarb, and apples.

Evan and the Tylers first connected through Evan’s parents. Evan’s parents were members of their CSA, and Evan was originally working in his grandmother’s garden until she sold her property.

Ultimately, Evan’s parents expressed to Godfrey that he had been looking for a summer job and Jean and Godfrey obliged. Since Evan started with the initiative earlier this year, the Tylers have been very impressed.

“I have to say, anybody that I have met, who knows Evan is very, very impressed by his work ethic, by who he is as a young man, in sports and in his work. Everybody really likes him and thinks very highly of him. We are just as impressed as well,” explained Jean.

Evan says the satisfaction of the job comes when he sees the smiling faces of the families he’s providing food to.

“This makes me feel pretty good. I’m helping them to eat healthy, which was one of the goals I had with the farm,” he said. “So far, I haven’t had any bad reactions to the food boxes or their quality. Everyone seems to be pleased, which is a great thing.”

Jean and Godfrey’s focus, along with Evan’s, is care of the land.

“If you take care of the land, the land will take care of us. That’s what we have found, and what we’ve mentored with, and that’s what we want to continue to do. If there is anyone interested in supporting Evan, or creating their own business, we have enough land,” states Jean.

“If kids are wanting their volunteer hours, they’re more than welcome to come help weed. Anybody who comes to help, would have an opportunity to learn and gain hours. Kids, or young adults could come here and help weed and harvest” noted Evan.

For more information, email Jean and Godfrey at jeanandgodfreytyler@gmail.com.