Low-interest loan for Chilliwack farm to grow on

The Allen family farm is getting help in the form of financing from Whole Foods Market and the Local Producer Loan Program.

GBE Chilliwack Heirloom Organic Farm is the second largest organic greenhouse operation in Western Canada. Now they're getting financing help to buy new farm equipment.

Organic farmer Michael Allen of Chilliwack says he gets a thrill out of making a difference in people’s lives with his tasty heirloom produce.

The Allen family farm on Luckakuck Way has grown to become the second largest organic greenhouse operation in Western Canada.

The incredibly sweet taste of their heirloom tomatoes, with an incomprehensible 100 varieties grown over the past eight years, is always the “show-stopper,” says Allen, owner of GBE Chilliwack Heirloom Organic Farm.

When you get right down to it, taste counts for a lot.

They sell out regularly because of the superior taste and a savvy clientele.

“When you believe in a lifestyle, it motivates what you do.

“Simplicity is key,” Allen tells The Progress.

Their philosophy is to treat the soil exceptionally well, building it up in the belief that micronutrients can be absorbed more naturally by the plants. They use natural methods for pest control and fertilization.

Making a difference in people’s lives may even have an edge over making money for him.

Now he’s getting a little help with a low-interest low to purchase more equipment, such as an in-line tiller, courtesy of Whole Foods Market and their Local Producer Loan Program.

“This is a great situation,” the farmer notes.

He was planning to attend a cheque presentation at Whole Foods Market in Vancouver Thursday to celebrate the $60,000 low-interest loan.

They planned to offer samples of their brand-new tomato chips at the same time.

“They have built an incredible business and have cultivated a customer base that loves their product,” says Denise Breyley, Whole Foods Market’s ‘local forager’ in the Pacific Northwest. “It’s thrilling to partner with them on the next chapter of their success story.”

Allen is deeply appreciative of the financing program.

“It’s like Whole Foods is telling us they like the food so much they want to support us and help us grow.”

All of the GBE produce is grown in soil. They have more than 20 acres of outdoor fields, and a three-acre greenhouse at Luckakuck Way and Evans Road.

However, not being able to always supply the voracious demand for GBE’s product line is a bit of a sore spot.

“It’s hard dealing with the financials,” he explains. “If you grow too quickly, you can’t keep up with the growth. It can turn around and bite you.”

If he has a pet peeve, it’s the lack of financial support from the provincial government, which only spends about two per cent of the GDP on agriculture, compared to the Canadian average of 11 per cent.

He points to the high fees, duties and levies farmers have to pay.

“It’s always about getting over the hump. Farming is always, ‘let’s set what happens this year.'”

That’s why it helps being passionate about what they do.

The Allen family has been farming since 2002, and the heirloom operation was certified organic in 2007.

GBE grows everything from heirloom tomatoes, beans, peppers and basil, along with watermelons, kale, corn and blueberries.

Some of the varieties of tomatoes and beans are two-toned, or striped, and they come in a rainbow of colours and shapes since they haven’t been crossbred for uniformity of colour and size.

They even cultivate a heritage Jamaican green known as callaloo, and a commercial volume of organic Chilliwack corn — which is rare.

Through their loan program, Whole Foods Market is providing $25 million in low-interest loans to local growers, producers and food artisans, like GBE.

With the financing, GBE is buying new equipment to improve the farm’s efficiency and to enhance production.

“Ultimately, this loan is an investment in our shared commitment to organic farming practices,” Allen adds.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

Just Posted

Chilliwack to survey child-care needs of families and caregivers

With provincial funding help, an inventory of child care spaces will soon be underway in Chilliwack

Discover what they unearthed downtown at Heritage Chilliwack event

The Algra Brothers’ art director will be guest speaker at September 5 event in Chilliwack

Hope’s only public wheelchair-accessible vehicle stolen

More than 300 clients left in lurch after volunteer group discovers van stolen

Gathering on the Fraser to foster mutual respect for fisheries

Frustrations of the fishing season well known to user groups on the Lower Fraser River this summer

Sardis neighbourhood planning process set to begin in Chilliwack

Residents will have several ways to get involved in the the City of Chilliwack planning process

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

Mouse infestation hit Langley hospital’s kitchens

Droppings and urine were found by Fraser Health inspectors in the spring

Son of slain former Hells Angel is one of two men sentenced for crime spree

Pair’s 2017 series of Lower Mainland robberies stretched from Surrey to Mission

‘Person of interest’ identified after suspicious meat left in North Delta park

Piles of meat have been dumped near the 63rd Avenue trail entrance four times in the last 30 days

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

B.C. mom mourns 14-year-old son whose fatal overdose was posted online

Chantell Griffiths misses the son she hadn’t seen much in recent years

Most Read