Around a year ago, Pender Island couple Chris Hall and Steph Lowey decided to tackle a pandemic-inspired challenge to live solely off what they grow, raise, catch or find in nature.
It started when the two were both laid off from their hospitality jobs due to the pandemic and had a little extra time on their hands with the lockdown.
“Not having the temptations of going out to parties and traveling and missing things, just seemed like the perfect time to do it,” said Hall back when CHEK News first covered their story in January 2021.
The two had basic knowledge of gardening, farming and fishing, but much of the transformation required an investment of money, time and a steep learning curve. They built a chicken coop, grew as many fruits and vegetables as they could and even gave beekeeping a shot.
“Everything really, so everything from salt from the ocean to growing stevia instead of sugar,” said Hall via zoom from his Pender Island home.
As a substitute for coffee, they tried steeped roasted dandelion root — no caffeine, but provides a similar taste, according to Hall. They also tried making their own wine with grapes grown in their backyard.
“It wasn’t winning any awards,” said Hall. “We had a fun night with it though.”
Lowey says the challenge forced them to get creative with their meals and helped them gain a new appreciation for what they eat and drink.
“Definitely like a new relationship with our food,” said Lowey. Learning where it comes from and how much work it takes to really put food on our plates.”
And going a year without a trip to the grocery store not only saved them money, but also helped them reduce waste.
“We never really thought about how much garbage really comes from food and beverage packaging,” said Hall. “So eliminating those things has brought down our garbage and recycling and really made a huge difference.”
The couple says the year was far from easy and there were many highs and lows, but ultimately their ‘Lovin off the land’ challenge has brought them closer together.
“We’ve learned so much about each other,” said Lowey. “Just the way we like to work, what times of day we like to do work, all that kind of stuff, so yeah, I’d say we’re stronger than we were going into this.”
The two say they’ve received plenty of tips and tricks from friends and neighbors, and even some guidance from people as far as Russia thanks to their popular Lovin’ off the Land YouTube page. August 2nd marks their ‘Lovin off the Land’ one year anniversary and the original date they set for the challenge to end. However, the two believe they’re better off sticking with their new lifestyle.
“We’re far healthier than we were and feel better and lost weight,” said Hall, who’s lost over thirty pounds since they started. “So I think we’ll have a bit of a cheat week, but for the most part we’ll get back to what we’re doing.”
Hall and Lowey say anyone can do it, but suggest to start small with a garden.