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In fact, restoration work is just getting underway on most farms. With the help of huge volunteer crews, many farmers have been able to demolish damaged buildings and dispose of ruined equipment. Now it’s time to rebuild. But that’s an expensive undertaking, particularly when insurance payments aren’t forthcoming (flood plain residents don’t qualify for flood insurance), and government aid is slow and complex to access. Many farmers don’t even qualify for this aid because their farm businesses grossed more last year than the stringent criteria allow. Without the infrastructure of equipment and buildings to anchor their farm work, they can’t farm. And without income from crops or products rolling in any time soon, they won’t have the funds to restore the buildings or replace the equipment. Fortunately, caring volunteers committed to local food and farmers are still giving everything they can in the form of time, money, food and supplies.

We had some flood sales to clear out damaged inventory and bring in a bit of revenue.” “At first I didn’t think we really needed the food Victoria was providing,” Mostertman admits, “but soon we realized it was a gamechanger.” Once volunteer crews started arriving to help with demolition and restoration work, she realized there was no way to provide lunch. “I wanted to feed the people helping us, but we had no cooking facilities or refrigeration. There aren’t even any fast food places nearby. It was amazing to be provided with a crockpot and sandwiches for them every day.” Those lunches still arrive daily to keep the volunteer crews nourished. “It really hit me just before Christmas,” says Mostertman. “We didn’t leave the farm for almost two months after the flood. If I’d had to go grocery shopping at Christmas time and seen everyone acting so normal, and bumped into people asking how we’re doing and wishing us Merry Christmas… well, it would have been too much.” Christmas may be a distant memory now, but at the Yarrow Food Hub the word “angel” is still bandied about with casual yet heartfelt sincerity — probably because the comfort and joy are still flowing. This joyful atmosphere is one reason Mostertman only ventures beyond her farm to go to the Food Hub; the “real” world is just too much. The Hub is a safe place where everyone understands the severity of the situation.

Victoria Kuit remains the hub of this wheel that just keeps on turning — and churning out slivers of hope — because it has to.

“It’s far from over,” she reminds everyone who crosses her path. “The water may be gone, but that’s the only certainty right now. Nobody knows if the crops or soil will be viable in the spring. Most of the farmers aren’t even back in their homes. They still need food on the table. The need is great. People were so generous over the holidays, but I worry they’ve forgotten the need remains acute.” When asked how people can help, her response is swift. “Send money. They need gift cards for gas, groceries and building supplies. Or send e-transfers. Or call me to find out what the needs are this week. This is sink or swim. We need our farmers to stay afloat. Without farmers, there’s no food.”

“It’s not just about food,” Kuit says. “It’s about friendship.”

Ripples remains an active construction site, but thanks to dedicated volunteers, restoration is moving along more swiftly than on most farms. A team of volunteer specialists even repaired and reupholstered the beautiful antique furniture in the tasting room. “With so much help from friends and our community, we’ll be up and running for weddings this summer,” says Mostertman with relief. Months have passed since the flood, and the natural disaster has trickled out of public consciousness with the receding waters. But for the region’s farmers, every single day brings new reminders of the event, along with new challenges. For these folks — the very people who provide so much of our local milk, berries, meat, eggs and vegetables — it’s not over.

The Yarrow Food Hub 41620 No. 3 Rd, Chilliwack yarrowfoodhub@hotmail.com | 604.798.0366

Ripples Winery and New Wave Distilling 3387 Tolmie Road, Abbotsford rippleswinery.com | 604.864.1033 | newwavedistilling.com

Michelle Superle loves to eat. If she could have three wishes, she’d use them all to make sure the farmers are alright.



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