Greenhouses are not what you expect to see at the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports Grounds, but they somehow work in the space.
Brackendale brother and sister duo Nick and Rebecca Bolkowy have set up a Republic Heirloom Farms Pop-Up Nursery in the parking lot of the Loggers Sports grounds.
For years, locals headed to their Brackendale family Cottonwood Road property for their tomato — and later pepper — plant sale, but the expanded pop-up nursery opened about a month ago.
They are open until July from Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Last year, due to COVID-19, their annual sale had to be kiboshed and instead, they sold online.
Nick, 33, started selling tomatoes in the driveway of his family home nine years ago.
"My dad gardens, so I was doing some gardening myself and went down the rabbit hole of growing tomatoes," he said with a laugh.
"I started a bunch for myself and said 'I have these packets, so I might as well start a few extras and pay for my hobby by selling some plants on the side.' So, I did that and sold a couple of hundred plants, and it grew from there," he said, adding he thought tomatoes were a good plant to start with because they are so much better homegrown, compared to store-bought.
Over time, he built greenhouses. Number five and six greenhouses are on the Loggers Sports site.
In addition to the heirloom tomato starts grown from seed, the nursery has blossomed to include flowers, various vegetable starts and herbs.
The pair will have produce available as the season progresses.
Community support for the tomato sale led to this expansion, Nick said.
More and more people in Squamish are interested in food security and food sustainability, the siblings say.
"I think it is just an awareness for a lot of people of where the food system is," Nick said. "I think people are just more aware that their lettuce comes on a truck from California and that sort of thing. Especially with COVID and supply chain issues, they see that. A year ago, when the shelves were bare, people started panicking — 'Yeah, what happens if I can't buy tomatoes?' and they started thinking of growing their own."
Rebecca added that it is important for Squamish to have a full-cycle food system and become more self-sustaining.
"Right now, we are bringing all of our food in from either the Fraser Valley or across the world," she said. "There's a big push to do things locally. It supports the local economy as well as the environment.... If we are bringing things from across the world that are out of season here or can't be grown here, it is not great. We should be eating locally-sourced food."
Rebecca noted that it is possible to grow food even on small patios.
"There's a lot of veggies that can be grown in pots, and you don't need a lot of time commitment for them," she said.
Rebecca's passion is the flowers the nursery sells, which are 90% from seed or plug.
"We started back in February and have grown tens of thousands of seeds now, tons of annuals that are just starting to colour," she said.
She has always grown flowers for herself, but this year the pair "went for it" and decided to sell them.
"Most people don't want the pesticides and fungicides that the commercial growers are using," she said. Her flowers are grown using organic practices to avoid adding the chemicals, she said.
The pair say it is exciting to see a lot of people getting into gardening for the first time during the pandemic.
"It is nice to be able to connect and have the time to teach them as well how to be growing, rather than them trying to learn from watching YouTube or through the internet," said Rebecca.
"If they don't succeed, then they tend to give up on gardening."
Find the pop-up nursery at the Loggers Sports Grounds, 39555 Loggers Lane.
Check out their Republic Heirlooms Facebook page for more info.