Illustrating a season at Close to Home Organics

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This project brings together many things I love dearly: food security, drawing vegetables, and the barter system.

Close to Home Organics is a family-run organic farm in Abbotsford, BC. Chris and Paige have over 40 crops on their farm and they’re trying to build a model of sustainable agriculture. They asked if I would like to trade vegetables for an illustration they’d give to their farm supporters – and of course I said yes.

Here’s a look behind the scenes.

Chris and Paige sent me lots of information. And unsurprisingly, it turns out Close to Home Organics and Glen Valley Co-op have a lot going on at their farms. I learned they’re planting native edible plants (I had never heard of miner’s lettuce, highbush cranberries, or wapato), what are different places to plant to build soil health (along the forest edges, near ponds, in open fields) or what they’re doing in the winter season (planning ahead, starting seeds).

I read through the info, and planned out a sketch for them to consider.

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I send sketches to the people I’m working with because I like getting feedback through a project. It takes the pressure off the ‘big reveal’. Chris and Paige sent feedback about the drawing, and since we were all on the same page, I got to work straight away.

First, I hung up a 5 foot by 3 foot piece of paper. Working on such large paper helps me maximize the amount of detail I can include. I used different pens and art materials because I had the luxury of spending more time with this project. I also referenced books and the internet to draw some of the veggies (um, rutabega? why do you look so weird?).

I used different colours and suns to show the changing seasons, and snuck in some tiny bees, salmon and deer to connect the farm to larger ecosystems. Learning that Close to Home had community dinners, I also added text under the tree roots from their website that says, “the root of the word culture is Latin for ‘to cultivate’. Culture is literally rooted in the soil.” 

I decided that a hand-drawn version of the logo would fit best with the overall picture. Actually, you’ll find the logo drawn out in every section/season of the bigger picture. This is because I planned the drawing so I would be able to crop and edit a smaller picture of each season. This way Close to Home could use each season on their website, and each small picture would include their branding.

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Once the drawing and lettering was done, I brought the image into the computer for editing. This editing is part of every large graphic recording that I do when I work ‘live’ in front of groups on big paper like this. The usefulness of 6-foot posters is key in the moment, but can be limited after the event – so being able to edit the picture down to a size that can be emailed and printed easily is important. In this case, I added Close to Home’s QR code too.

One more note: our house was already a happy subscriber to their Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA). A CSA is like a weekly organic veggie box, but with a twist. Instead of buying a box of delicious veggies each week, we pay for the season as much as we can up front. This money gives the farmers flexibility and more financial stability. It also means that if the weather is bad – like the flooding in 2012 – we all share the risk. (And we still got veggies!)

CSA shares are a great investment in local food security. It’s a big commitment – but I want to add that small steps are really just as important. Switching any regular part of your produce purchases to a local organic farmer is valuable.

2 comments

  1. judith dampier says:

    Hi Sam, I want to just say that although I am truly biased I have been involved in my “previous life” as a Calligrapher (that means before arthritis ended that career) and so I can appreciate the energy ,talent and emotion (not to mention time and hard work) that went into this piece of art. It’s beautiful! I am incredibly impressed and it’s so great to have these circles in our lives that come back again to complete us. I knew you when you were in elementary school with Lesley of course and now I also find that you are friends with others that are friends of theirs (and mine too, I trust). Thank you for sharing your marvelous gifts with us all. I actually managed to get two from them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ( I guess I bartered them for some babysitting and a few meals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????) One at least for that and another for being a CSA subscriber. Maybe a few more meals and some extra babysitting will make another happen? In the meantime I’d love to gift you (no bartering at all) with some of my glen valley salts that I dehydrated last summer from the excess veggies in my box. If you want some then send me your address and I’ll send them on to you. Believe me they are quite good but certainly not a new business for me! They are more like pinching or flavouring salts but are more veggies than salt so you are reducing your salt intake and by pinching you get less than normal? Not trying to sell them but everytime I use them I think of the veggies at the farm. Seeing and enjoying your poster makes them all come together somehow.
    Everytime I look at your poster I find more and more and will have one of them framed. The other I am going to laminate and use as a placemat and hopefully I’ll be able to con a few more out of them eventually so I can use them when I have folk to dinner.
    Thank you for your generosity and creativity. Judi (Dampier)

    • sambradd says:

      Hi Judith, this is such a beautiful way of coming full circle. I still have beautiful things that you made with calligraphy for me as a child, and I treasure them. The people who influence us to become artists aren’t always visible as teachers at the time – but clearly, you were a big influence as I look back. I’m glad to be back in touch with you all.

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