In just a generation or two we have almost lost the accumulated food gardening wisdom of hundreds of years. The convenience of the big box food machine has made vegetable gardening seem like a complicated, involved secret too hard to attempt. Thanks to passionate, energetic young farmers like Michelle Younie, the lost wisdom is being passed on again. Michelle couldn’t have started her new Somewhere that’s Green Edible Landscapes venture at a better time. Fad diets are out for many, sensibly being replaced by simply adding in lots of organically grown fruits and vegetables to what we eat daily. Healthy eating is also coupled with a strong desire to do something about environmental sustainability, right in our own backyards.
Michelle can teach you where and what to plant in your yard with a focus on edibles. Her services range from designing and planning your edible landscape to building, planting and maintaining it for you.
She is a self-taught farmer with enough energy and passion to fuel three enterprises. Michelle grows all the produce used at Penticton’s highly-rated Hooded Merganser Bar and Grill in Penticton from her work as the farmer of Valleyview Farm. She was hired on as the farm manager four years ago after the Penticton Lakeside Hotel’s owner admired her first vegetable patch on her parent’s land.
Younie now also employs her dad, Don at the Valleyview Farm and her brother Ryan at Somewhere that’s Green, which also feeds the Younies from their family plot and a growing list of others on an email list who come twice a week to pick up their bounty.
Somewhere that’s Green Edible Landscapes germinated because, “I’m obsessed with this. It is really something to help people start their own gardens. When you first start out you make a lot of mistakes. It’s really a lost skill now and many in my generation grew up with houses with yards that never had a vegetable garden. I can help people avoid mistakes at the beginning and get through some of the initial overwhelming learning curve. Our Okanagan climate is so extreme and getting more extreme so learning what works well here is very valuable.”
Michelle also spotted a niche. “There are tons of landscape companies in the Valley but none that I know of that are focused on edible landscapes.”
Michelle’s top three mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t buy topsoil. It’s expensive and unnecessary. Build up the soil through the use of compost, manure and green manures instead.
- Don’t go nuts buying seeds your first year. Try five different varieties and add more once you’ve mastered those.
- Don’t worry so much about weeding. It’s not as big deal as you think and not a daily chore by any means.
Michelle’s top three suggestions:
- Always plant in the ground versus a container if you have the choice. It’s so dry and hot here that container gardens need constant watering.
- Plan out your irrigation and use timers and other methods to water properly and wisely.
- Compost is very important in our silty soils.
One more tip we mutually agree upon:
- If you want zucchinis…only plant one or you will be giving them away or trying to give them away to other people who planted more than one.
Can you get rich farming?
“Ah, no. I want to be successful and am excited about adding Somewhere that’s Green into the mix but it’s not going to make me rich. I’m committed to this lifestyle and am passionate about sharing it with others. We now host three different groups of people a year to come and work on the farm for free and learn. I have an engineer friend who has come to work with me part time just to learn about farming. People are really interested in learning to be more resourceful and it’s such a valuable trait I think.”
Some of the benefits of turning your yard into an edible landscape include saving energy (no fuel used to ship and refrigerate), food safety (you know what you’ve planted and put on that plant), water savings (home gardeners use about half the amount of water industrialized farmers use), money savings and better nutrition.
A properly designed edible landscape can look beautiful as well. Lawns are minimized and blueberries can take the place of the fleetingly beautiful azaleas. Hedges can be made up of blackberry and raspberry canes and boarders created with rainbow chard, peppers and herbs. You will attract more birds and wildlife to your garden too.