The sign at Femmelyse Garden in Smithers. (Tom Roper photo)

The sign at Femmelyse Garden in Smithers. (Tom Roper photo)

A coincidental meeting leads to a bountiful garden

Tom goes looking for an old friend, finds some new ones and a source of locally-grown produce

Femmelyse’s Garden.

Femmes is French for ladies. Melanie and Lyse are the ladies and it’s their garden.

How do you like this coincidence?

I was out on the high road looking for a friend Max. He does dogsled tours up in Yellowknife during the winter and thought he might have a good story to tell. Turns out he sold his property last year and moved to Yellowknife full time.

The people who bought his place are Quebecers who have lived in Smithers for almost 10 years. Normand is a federal enforcement officer and chose Smithers over Whitehorse to set up shop. His wife, Lyse left her job as an assistant winemaker in Montreal to become a gardener.

They started out in Ebenezer flats country but found out there was a shortage of soil. They then were able to purchase a town lot off Railway and Victoria Streets up the back alley. The soil there is exceptional and the dream for Lyse was born. Melanie was only three lots up the road and wanted to grow a garden too. They joined forces and developed a plan.

We want to grow good food for our families and the families in the Bulkley Valley, they say. We want to build a sustainable, organic, non-mechanized operation. We see the garden as a living organism and do not want to walk on the soil. We want to grow without chemicals, weed by hand, and produce exceptional veggies for ourselves and our community.

It can be done says Lyse and I was able to concur.

Wow, what a garden. The lot is 100 feet by 120 feet and it’s all garden. The rows are 30 inches wide with working paths on each side and there are 24 rows, 100 feet long. They have it all, potatoes, red cabbage, celery, leeks and more.

They are growing the only artichokes in the north. Turnips, parsley, kale, and char are also in the repertoire.

We do not use any fertilizers, they say. We compost all the leaves from the produce and we regenerate the rows using green manure.

Lyse says they are non-certified organic growers. She said they sourced their seed from William Dam Seeds in Ontario, West Coast Seeds B.C. and Myco Flor out of Quebec. They are now trying to produce their own seeds and that’s a time-consuming operation.

We are always looking for helpers, they say. There is no money to exchange hands but you can work for your veggies. We have a price list for our produce and transactions are by donations.

Lyse and Melanie are at the garden every week Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 to 4.

We have been selling to charitable organizations for their food donations, we have been trading with our neighbours and you are welcome to meet us at the garden.

We believe in sourcing our food locally. Transportation from other countries drives up the cost of food and also contributes unnecessary pollution. Smithers needs food security and this can be a way to achieve that. Our t-shirts read “Lettuce Carrot The Earth” with a nice big carrot in the middle.