Across Canada in a farmhouse: Revelstoke to Vancouver

Locals jokingly call it "Revelstuck." People apparently end up stranded here quite routinely — probably because it snows so bloody much, but not always for that reason.

As readers already know, we too were "Revelstuck" for a bit. Make no mistake, however, it was no fault of Revelstoke, B.C.; this pretty little town that kneels on the banks of the Columbia River, and lurks in the shadows of the Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges.

Quite the opposite, actually.

After approximately a week of uncertainty and frustration over permits, pilot vehicles and insurance, we were about ready to cut our journey short — finish it up right there in the mountains. And then a local businessman offered his help.

Robert Smith owns Classic Collision and Towing in Revelstoke. He’s a golfer, car aficionado, avid reader and ball player. And, most importantly, until the age of 13 Robert was a farmer. Then, in the 1960s, the Columbia River Treaty (between the U.S. and Canada) literally washed over the Smith place and hundreds of others like it up and down the Valley.

Robert’s mother Ivy had a surplus of good sense in those days, and when she sensed the dammed waters on the rise it was she who insisted that the family pull the plug on the Smith farm.

So Robert Smith cares about farming, which is why he stepped up. Within hours of our first phone exchange we had our rig in Classic Towing’s yard on Big Eddy Road. The little Massey went up on the 22-foot tilt loader, and our "house" went on the ball hitch behind, ready for a much-faster-than-usual journey.

After a few brake checks and some weight re-distribution we were rolling on our uneventful journey toward the Okanagan and Fraser Valleys — the Lower Mainland and Vancouver.

Now, of course the most unfortunate part of Robert’s otherwise extremely generous assistance is the fact that we simply didn’t/couldn’t stop off along the way to interview producers between Revelstoke and Vancouver. All that stunning grazing land… all those fruit producers… simply whizzed past.

We will be returning, however, because B.C. farmers are too important to the national story.

Robert dropped us off in Delta after approximately nine hours on the road. We were soon set up next to the barn on Cathy and Alan Glover’s property, which is perched smack on the edge of Vancouver’s suburban sprawl. To the immediate north: side-splits and "McMansions." To the south: dwindling Fraser-Delta soil and a port authority that’s bursting at the seams with intermodal transport growth.

One of the lifelong farmers in this neck of the woods, whom we’re going to see later today, is former B.C. agriculture minister John Savage. His family has farmed here since the 1880s, and we’re told John himself has some pretty clear recollections about how farming has evolved in this area over the past half-century or so. One particularly important memory for John (we’ve been told by folks who know him) is the year 1969, in which federal and provincial governments combined to expropriate farmland in the interest of seaport growth and development.

Apparently the expropriations stopped at the property line of the Savage farm. We’re looking forward to meeting John and chatting about what it’s like farming on the "edge."

In any case, we’re no longer "Revelstuck," and for that we thank our new friend Robert Smith of Classic Towing in Revelstoke, B.C.

— John Varty and his fiancee Molly Daley are driving across Canada in an effort to speak to farmers about the issues that concern them, and to bring those concerns to urbanites. They’re doing it in an unusual fashion — towing a "farmhouse" behind a Massey Ferguson 1660 — and will post periodic reports here of their trek across the West.

Related stories:
Across Canada in a farmhouse: Still in Revelstoke, Aug. 30, 2012
Cross-Canada tractor pull, July 30, 2012

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