FCFC Background and Development

Original Inspiration and Intentions
The mid-seventies was an exciting and innovative time in the Vancouver area. Along with an awakened environmental consciousness, new forms of art, culture, and community development were blossoming. Vancouver’s hosting of the United Nations Habitat Conference on Human Settlements in 1976 catalyzed new thinking about housing, energy, and community.
In 1976, a small group of engaged citizens formed “Community Alternatives,” a non-profit society dedicated to putting some of these new ideas into practical form. Founder Jan Bulman explains how it happened: “two innovative educators, John McBride and John Olsen, attracted the critical mass necessary for a viable group, through writings, workshops, partying, and know-how about group development.” Soon after, writes Jan, in 1977, “the group took its first real risk,” buying a 10-acre plot of land near Aldergrove, about one hour east of Vancouver. “We initially saw our farm as a garden for those of us in the city,” remembers Jan, but the energy crisis of the late 1970s soon showed the impracticality of this approach. Within a couple of years, the farm was home to several full-time residents, who built a large farmhouse and began farming.

By 1979, CAS had formed the Community Alternative Housing Co-op (CAC) in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver. The membership structure used the original non-profit society (CAS) to link the new city co-op (CAC) to the existing farm co-op (FCFC). The founders envisioned an integrated rural-urban community. The formal rural-urban connection remained strong for 20 years, but has weakened over the last decade. There is (in 2011) no longer an expectation that members of the city co-op also become members of the farm co-op.

Management Structure
Over time, decision-making about the farm moved from the city-based CAS to the farm-based FCFC. Farm residents and a couple of non-resident members became the Farmkeepers committee. To this day, “Farmkeepers” carries out the operations of the farm. They provide leadership on policy, conflict resolution, and farm use, as well as managing finances, housing, and licenses.

The Land
Over the years, the members of FCFC have contributed much to the farm. In addition to the new farmhouse, they have renovated and maintained farm buildings, constructed a cabin for members and guests, and hosted farm celebrations every spring and fall. In addition, they have taken care of the land, preserving wildlife habitat and tending many fruit and nut trees. In 2000, FCFC bought an adjacent farm, increasing its total acreage to 20 acres.
In 1986, four FCFC members had incorporated the “Glorious Garnish and Seasonal Salad Company.”  Since then, they have raised food on FCFC land: a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and, recently, chickens. The Salad Company (now “Glorious Organics” or “GLO” for short) has sold high-quality produce to restaurants since 1986. In 2004, the company became a workers’ co-op. In 2009, GLO added a Community Shared Agriculture program, providing boxes of fresh, local produce to families around the Lower Mainland. GLO also cooperates with many other organic farms in the Fraser Valley to share in marketing, advocacy, and community development.

For decades, FCFC members have been a major force in the movement for sustainable agriculture. They have helped develop, lead, and sustain numerous organizations working for healthy food and land in BC: FarmFolkCityFolk, the BC Association for Regenerative Agriculture (BCARA), Glen Valley Organic Farm Co-operative, Vancouver Farmers Market, Langley Farmers Market, Community Farms Program, the Slow Food movement, and the BC Food Systems Network. In addition, they have been active in educating farmers and consumers about organic growing, permaculture, food security, and seed-saving, through workshops, tours, and celebrations.

Revenue and Shares
Land licenses, housing charges, and member contributions are the main sources of FCFC revenue. This revenue is used to meet ongoing costs of insurance, utilities, maintenance and the mortgage. (FCFC spends about $18,000 per year on mortgage interest.) Currently, FCFC has no financial reserves and no extra capital to use for farm development. This could be easily remedied by increasing shareholder involvement and investment.
During the last ten years, the CAS non-profit has been very inactive, and the historical connection between FCFC and the CAC coop has lessened significantly. While there are only a handful of CAC residents who are active in FCFC, the latter still has a lot of social capital. Over the last 35 years, FCFC has built good relationships with many individuals and groups in the broader community, many of whom already have a direct connection to our land (GLO’s CSA members, chefs and restauranteurs, historical CAS members, members of the above sustainable agriculture organizations, seasonal celebrators, grown children of historical FCFC members, and others).

From her article about Community Alternatives and Fraser Common Farm in Shared Visions, Shared Lives, Bill Metcalf, 1996.



Last Modified: September 23, 2014