Ross with his boar Bart. He calls himself an ‘accidental farmer’.

Ross with his boar Bart. He calls himself an ‘accidental farmer’.

‘Farm the Kootenays’ creates supportive community

Helping hobbyists and serious producers alike, the Facebook group has grown to nearly 12,000 members

Vicki Issott didn’t know why the leaves on her tomato plants were curling in on themselves. So she turned to Farm the Kootenays for help.

And the Facebook group didn’t disappoint.

“Might be herbicide contamination,” suggested one reader.

“[It’s a] virus, using calcium helps to prevent, but your gonna need a fungicide,” said another.

More members of the Kootenay’s largest online farm group chime in with ideas. Too much water. Too much sun. Maybe voles. Or tomato bugs. Or even cucumber mosaic virus.

“Do you smoke?” asked a member called Charity Bee. “Tomatoes hate nicotine… weird but true.”

It’s a typical day on Farm the Kootenays, one of the largest Facebook communities in the area, with over 11,700 members.

A community group for people who grow things in the Kootenays, the seven-year-old page has everything, from people seeking remedies for slugs (“Plant green onions around the perimeter”) to people looking to sell goats, dogs, hay, and used farm equipment. People look for recommendations for services, or have skills to offer the region’s widespread mixed-farm culture.

It all makes group page founder Jim Ross happy.

“I am just so pleased that the community has embraced the group and turned it into what I hope it would be: a supportive group, lots of exchange of ideas and knowledge, and sharing practical things like equipment,” says Ross.

Ross calls himself an “accidental farmer”, who bought some property near Slocan Park about 14 years ago, and starting collecting a few animals- chickens, sheep and pigs, notably.

He fell in love with farming and his operation grew, and he started a blog recounting his experiences. But he wanted to try to create a more social network for Kootenay farmers.

“There was another group in the area doing sort of homestead, survivalist stuff, with farming in the middle,” he says. “There just wasn’t around much to connect local small farmers and people who were keen, so I said ‘What the heck, I’ll take a stab at it.’”

That “stab” has brought thousands of farmers, farm hobbyists, farm supporters and gardeners under Farm the Kootenay’s umbrella. Ross says there are members from across the southern interior, Alberta, and even into northern Washington and Idaho.

“I think there’s a real move these days for being somewhat self-sustaining, and there’s also a lot of people, young people who want to get into it,” he says, explaining its popularity.

“But they don’t have the resources, and don’t know where to start.

“So it’s great for that. It’s a good way for folks to buy and sell farm animals, farm products, supplies for raising animals, and raising vegetables and fruit.”

Facebook pages can get unruly, and conversations spin off into arguments and insults. But Ross says his experience has been pretty positive, even as the site has grown.

“When I first started the group, there was a little bit of that that went on, and for quite a few years I was the only admin,” he says. “But I put my foot down, and said there would be zero tolerance towards that kind of thing. You get one warning, and you get blocked from the group.

“The group has become somewhat self-policing. When someone is nasty, rude or unhelpful, people will say just that.”

The supporting attitude has helped create a community of farm folk who help each other, says Ross. He recalls a young family from the East Kootenay that had fallen on hard times, and were willing to work for food and supplies to feed themselves.

“They posted saying they were willing to help on a farm in exchange for food. They were looking for laying hens and a few things,” recalls Ross.

“A bunch of members of the group pitched in and raised some money and they got a bunch of different farming-type supplies and food supplies, and drove all the way form Nelson-Salmo to Golden to take it to them. It just floored this young family, and helped them out a whole lot. It’s not uncommon.”

Ross says even he has benefited from the generosity of the Farm the Kootenays community. He came home one day to find out thieves had cleaned out his freezers of his freshly-butchered hogs.

“I was getting ready to sell it, and I really needed that money at that point. I was just floored, pretty upset,”he recalls. “I posted to the site that I had been broken into and someone had stolen several thousand dollars of pork from me.

“And I started getting e-transfers from people. In the end I received enough transfers I was able to cover my mortgage for that month. That was huge for me, big.”

Ross points out the Kootenays agricultural base was hit hard by the Columbia River flooding in the 1960s, and the farm economy shrank in many areas. Few areas are self-sustaining, and farmers have to trade, share or exchange things like feed, equipment and seed to survive.

“We don’t have a big bread basket anymore,” he says. “We have nowhere where we grow a lot of hay, grain, or inputs for farms. We have to get hay from Creston, Grand Forks and beyond.

“And because there hasn’t been a strong agricultural scene in our part of the world for quite some time, we don’t have a lot of government resources, like agriculture outreach.

Farm the Kootenays helps that goal by helping people share knowledge and resources.

“It is very difficult in this area to find information, and people go and search on the internet to try to find answers,” he says. “But when you don’t know anything and you’re starting from absolute zero, you don’t even know where to look.

“So that sort of thing, pointing people to resources, giving very general advice, and part of it is just general encouragement, is what Farm the Kootenays does.”

“It lets you know you’re not alone, you have someplace to go.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


FTK members are often asked to identify pests and plants. This one’s still undetermined- black aphids, was one suggestion.

FTK members are often asked to identify pests and plants. This one’s still undetermined- black aphids, was one suggestion.

Just Posted

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

A mushroom grower plans to plan new mushrooms in fallen trees in the Kaslo Community Forest. File photo
Kaslo mushroom farmer given green light for unique project

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

Alison Watson spotted this mama bear and her cub up an oak tree in Warfield last fall. Photo: Alison Watson
Secure your trash; Bears are awaking in Greater Trail and they’re hungry

Trash is the most reported attractant involved in human-bear conflicts

Eileen Truant Pedersen shows the wartime metal band inscribed “Oro Alla Patria,” that was passed down in the family. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail Blazers: The story of the metal wedding band 86 years on

Eileen Truant Pedersen has been writing about her family, and local history, for years.

Rossland council approved the design of a potential development on Washington St. Photo: Jim Bailey
Rossland development design given green light

Aerie development provides five efficiently designed units to add to affordable housing stock.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Most Read