2010 Local Heroes: Karen Campbell
Click here to read the profiles of our other Local Heroes for 2010. Not exactly the make-up type By Jeff Rollings, Photography by Pete Paterson Karen Campbell is fresh from…
Not exactly the make-up type
By Jeff Rollings, Photography by Pete Paterson
Karen Campbell is fresh from spending the day with a bus-load of kids from Burlington.
As education co-ordinator at Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre near Hillsburgh, she spends a lot of days like this, out in the vegetable field watching third-graders, or high-school students sporting piercings and leather, light up with wonder as they pull their first carrot from the ground.
Karen’s efforts to teach people a new way to think about food earned her international recognition last year, when she was one of three Canadians presented with a Woman of the Earth award by the Yves Rocher Foundation of France. Better known for cosmetics, the firm’s founder is also a long-time environmental activist. Since 2001, his foundation has presented the Women of the Earth award to more than 165 women in eleven countries “who are working to protect nature and the well-being of mankind.”
Everdale itself has long been a forward-thinking kind of place. From 1966 to 1974, the fifty-acre property was home to Canada’s first “free school.” However, while Everdale’s board continued to meet and the educational charter was maintained, the property itself eventually fell into disrepair.
In the late 1990s, Karen, her husband Gavin Dandy, Lynn Bishop and Wally Seccombe set their sights on bringing Everdale back to life. They obtained organic certification, developed a new business model, incorporated as a not-for-profit, negotiated a long-term lease with the original board, and set about restoring the buildings.
Today, Everdale is a happening place. With over 10,000 visitors a year it has become a leading light in the world of sustainability, and has been sup-ported by numerous foundations and grants. The organic operation now spills over onto rented space on several neighbouring farms. Produce is sold at two major farmers’ markets in Toronto, and through Everdale’s Community Shared Agriculture program, which currently has about 200 local members and 200 more in Toronto. The CSA features not only Everdale produce, but also those of other local organic growers.
In 2004, Home Alive! was completed. It is a straw-bale-constructed demonstration home that incorporates a variety of environmentally friendly technologies, and is open for tours.
Remaining true to the original Everdale educational charter, Karen runs a busy teaching calendar, including visits from 600 to 700 school children every spring and fall. During the winter, she operates a program called Farmers in the Schools. All the programs are matched to provincial curricula. Everdale also offers courses and workshops for farmers and other people interested in sustainable practices.
Karen’s vision of the future stretches far beyond Everdale’s fenceline. She would like to see food become a bigger priority in education, and can imagine a day when all schools have a relationship with local farms.
“Sometimes we get too Everdale-centric,” she says, bouncing across a field behind the wheel of an old van. “Kids should be able to go to local farms everywhere.”
Yves Rocher’s cosmetics business has a major facility in Montreal, and the charitable foundation has supported Everdale in the past. Karen says, “The awards gala was much more of an event than I expected. It was kind of embarrassing, actually. I’m not exactly the make-up type.”
For more information about Everdale’s CSA and educational programs, see everdale.org.