The Awesome Awards - Nominations

Sarah McMillan

Nominated by Amanda
May 29, 2013
I am nominating my dear friend Sarah McMillan, co-founder of Rootdown Organics in the Pemberton Valley. I have her award and will be giving it to her as soon as I see her.

Over the years I have watched Sarah work towards a vision to start an organic farm operation through her earlier work as a holistic nutritionist, co-coordinating the Vancouver Farmers markets, and then going through an apprenticeship program at UBC farm.

I was very excited for her when she decided to uproot from Vancouver to acquire some land just outside Pemberton to launch her small farm. I watched her grow through what was often a very grueling and thankless startup phase. But finally, she has succeeded in creating a thriving little community with only the dedication and commitment of someone who is deeply passionate about offering people like you and I alternatives to conventional food grown on conventional farms and everything else that this implies. At a time when we are at a choice point in terms of the kind of world we want to create, small-scale organic food producers like Sarah are vitally important to reversing some very disturbing global trends. I am so grateful she (and others like her) are out in the trenches making it happen.

In addition to delicious farm produce, they also keep ducks and chickens as well as their rare breed of Tamworth pigs that all live in very cushy conditions on the land. Whenever I happen to see videos that show the conditions on factory farms, I feel comforted to know that Sarah and others are providing alternatives to this dysfunctional system.

I love to spend time on Sarah’s land surrounded by mountains, forests and rivers, and to see the chickens and pigs on the pasture. With each visit, I start to feel romantic stirrings and imagine myself doing the same thing. Then I come back to my senses after watching them work for a few hours. It is not that it is miserable work by any means, but there is nothing romantic about it.

For example, on a market weekend, they might spend all day harvesting, cleaning and preparing their produce to bring to the Farmers Market in Vancouver. The next day they would wake up at dawn for the 3-hour drive to the market to sell their produce before dismantling it all and driving the 3 hours back to the farm. By the time the truck is unloaded, they have already clocked a 16 hour day, and this is before doing all the accounting and record keeping for the day.

Farming is not just what happens in the fields, it also involves staying on top of all the operational details of managing a small business--accounting, inventory, marketing, administrating, strategic planning, overseeing the apprentices and volunteers that join them over the busy season.

This takes a level of commitment and focus that few of us can imagine and they are sure not doing it for the financial rewards. It’s safe to say that organic farming is not a get-rich quick scheme. I remember hearing one farmer tell me “We may be in debt, but we eat really well’. This is definitely true, every meal I’ve had with Sarah has been pretty memorable, not just for the yummy food, but for the company. She may be shamelessly wholesome in her lifestyle and passionate about healing the planet, but she is also a great person to hang out with. My conversations with her range from the profound to the obscene, and everything in between. I appreciate her courage and personal integrity as well as her wicked sense of humour. Sarah, thank you for being so awesome!