The seed planted that grew Matthew Carr’s interest in farming vegetables happened by accident.
The former Fernie Ghostrider was in a Grade 11 biology class doing an experiment when he became really interested in how plants are bred, specifically how they can grow roots on stem tissue and vice versa. That led to him developing a little nursery garden centre with shrubs and ornamentals that he creates.
“Eventually it outgrew my parents backyard, we were getting people driving down thinking we were some big garden centre, and that same year, my grandparents were no longer allowed to butcher animals on our family farm,” Carr said. “The farm had just been sitting around and they had a 100 by 100 garden. My dad told me I needed to move my plants up there and start growing them out in the field. That would have been my second season. I went up there and I grew plants. There was a garden centre having an end of season sale in June, and I made a deal with the garden centre for $20 a pickup truck load of plants, and I cleaned out their garden centre of all these gnarly looking tomatoes and squash plants.
“At that time, I was playing for Fernie when I left that September to go back, I left my parents with a 1,000 pounds of tomatoes and squash and onions, from this little vegetable patch on the side,” continued Carr, who has owned and operated Linden Lane Farms in Krestova, B.C. for 11 years. “That winter, when I was playing out in Fernie, I looked into vegetables as a business. I found it made more business sense for me and my seasonality growing just in the summer and going away in the winter to do vegetables. Over the years our nursery has slowly gotten more focused. It helps us with cash flow at the start of the year so we can grow vegetables for the rest of it.”
Carr, 28, has two certificates – one in field production management and one in greenhouse management from the University of Saskatchewan, Olds College and the University of Manitoba. He completed some of his education while playing junior hockey. He also attended the University of Saskatchewan and has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (BSA) in Horticulture Science and a minor in Soil Science. Currently, he is an Articling Agrologist with BCIA specializing in Horticultural Agronomy for the Kootenays.
Linden Lane Farms has a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program had close to 75 members this year.
They produced close to 75 boxes this year for their community supported agriculture program. That is a weekly veggie box that they supply to families, who put their cash up front at the start of the season to allow Linden Lane Farms to buy seeds and supplies so they don’t have to go into debt. Families are supplied with 18 weeks of veggies from June until October.
They sell to people across Canada through their website, but primarily focus on their local customers in the Central Kootenays.
“It’s quite a large base and people really understand the quality and the pride and love that goes into the vegetables,” said Carr. “Once people get to try our watermelons for example, they are customers for life. Not many people grow watermelons in the Kootenays. We grow sweet corn, and some fun stuff.”
Linden Lane Farms is currently Canada’s only certified organic sweet potato slip producer. Along with growing watermelons, they also grow cantaloupe and honeydew, as well as close to 50 other vegetable crops.
“Those four crops, most people just shake their heads at,” he said. “We are always trialing and experimenting with new crops. Some work and some don’t, but we’re really blessed with the conditions we have in Krestova as they are really hot and dry. It works really well for vegetable growing.”
Among their other successes, and this one is a ground-breaker, is being the first farmers to be able to set up two tables at the Nelson Farmers market. Carr credits his family for the success Linden Lane Farms has enjoyed because without them it wouldn’t happen. They have done a lot for him.
Carr loves growing plants and being an organic farmer and embracing the challenges he’s faced with every day. Some of that includes how to deal with bugs and weeds. They are always learning.
“I really love talking and educating and watching people enjoy really good food,” he said. “I enjoy getting in the farmers market, and become alive when with two or three hours of sleep, I get out there and chat with people about how I harvest the watermelon. What went into the tomatoes.”
Carr spent parts of three seasons with the Ghostriders in which the defenceman played 100 career KIJHL regular season games and collected 59 points. He added nine points in 29 playoff games. During his time in the KIJHL, Carr said he developed people skills thanks to the community focus in Fernie and the amount of volunteering the players were involved in.
“I really find it’s important to reach out to our community,” said Carr, adding that he learned about organization and logistics. “Being ready for that bus when it’s ready to go out. It’s very similar to knowing when things need to come out of the field and how to schedule my time. The work ethic. We grow everything outside and most of our work is manual. There’s not that much tractor work and we are working our bodies really hard. I understand my body through hockey and how far I can push myself.”
Carr also made lasting relationships and every time he drives through Fernie on his way to the prairies to visit his partner’s family, it’s like driving through home because he knows so many people.
“It was an amazing experience. It allowed me to grow up,” he said. I learned things about living that you learn while in university as a 16- or 17-year-old.”
After developing in the KIJHL, Carr spent time in the BCHL and SJHL finishing out his Junior hockey career before pursuing his university studies in Saskatchewan.