‘He would love this’: Nanaimo food program harvests crops planted by late founder

Craig Evans started Growing Opportunities farm as a way to provide fresh produce to low-income people in the region.

Picking strawberries and weeding a growing field of vegetables, was a labour of love for Styler Martens Friday, as the Nanaimo man remembered his friend Craig Evans.

“He’s an amazing guy. Oh yes. He would love this,” said Martens, the farm manager of Growing Opportunities.

Friends and family remember the impact he had every day on the farm.

“I feel that Craig’s here every day with us, so [it] feels pretty nice,” said Jesyka Clarkson, Growing Opportunities’ education coordinator and field support.

Evans died of cancer in February but his hand is in every straight row of this Growing Opportunities farm in Nanaimo.

“Yeah the impact is huge,” said Nanaimo farmer Christiane Kamerman.

“It’s a legacy that I hope can continue. It’s amazing. You look at all the hard work that goes into it, and it’s just one guy’s vision, makes it happen.”

Even into his last days, Evans was out in Growing Opportunities fields with his wheelchair planting seeds and garlic bulbs. The Nanaimo man founded the farm co-op 10 years earlier, to grow affordable organic food for low-income people in Nanaimo while also offering job skills and opportunities for people facing barriers to employment.

“I look back and I think man did I ever spend my time where I wanted to put it,” Evans told CHEK News in October 2022.

The seeds the passionate founder put in the ground are now coming up, and are the first at Growing Opportunities without him.

“He was out here right up to the very end, telling us what to do and how to do it,” said Clarkson.

“The plan was to keep this going. Keep it growing on.”

Joy and John Cline, offered their Nanaimo farm free of charge to Craig’s cause and said it has been an honour to be part of his legacy as it continues.

“You know for us it’s a privilege to have them here because we’ve learned so much from them,” said John.

Fruit and vegetables from the farm now go to support food programs on the Island, restaurants and farmers markets. In addition, Growing Opportunities is launching a 12-week long farm crate program, beginning July 7.

“I think he’s dancing up in heaven,” said Martens.

As Craig Evans field of dreams and impact continues to grow in Nanaimo.

Skye Ryan

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!