All the Dirt

Reflections on Organic Farming

ISBN 9781927129128
Softcover | Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Book Dimensions: 7.5 in x 9 in
240 Pages

About the Book

Finalist for the 2012 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize

New farmers, experienced growers, budding environmentalists, and fans of natural, organic produce alike are sure to love All the Dirt. Filled with beautiful photographs and covering a wide variety of topics, from agrofuels and food sovereignty to practical tips about specific tools, All the Dirt is the must-read how-to book about small-scale organic farming. But beyond the practical applications, it is also the inspiring story of three friends who followed their dreams and became successful business partners.

Authors Rachel Fisher, Heather Stretch, and Robin Tunnicliffe, co-owners of Saanich Organics, a farmer-run local food distributor, share entertaining stories of three farmers’ lives, while also providing practical information about how to start a farm. They relate their personal and collective experiences as women, mothers, and farmers through anecdotes, and discuss the compelling reasons why Canada needs more organic farmers.

All the Dirt proves that there is no one right way to start a farm and no single solution to any problem. But that by working together, farmers can create a resilient agriculture that is vibrant and fun, as well as economically viable.

Rachel, Heather, and Robin have co-owned Saanich Organics since 2002. The business has been featured in numerous publications, including the Times Colonist, West Jet’s Up! magazine, EAT Magazine, and The Province. It has also been featured in Island on the Edge (a documentary film), as well as on CBC radio. By working co-operatively to grow and distribute top quality produce, the business has earned the respect of the farming community, the restaurant community, organic consumers, and activists. Visit Saanich Organics online at

About the Author(s)

Rachel Fisher was born in Victoria, BC, and spent her childhood exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the great outdoors. She received a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from the University of British Columbia, and spent several months studying plant medicine. When she isn’t working on her farm, volunteering with community and farming organizations, or mentoring new farmers, Rachel enjoys hiking, reading, and developing her cooking skills. She lives in Victoria with her partner and their two children.

Heather Stretch was born in Edmonton, Alberta. She has a BA and an MA in English Literature, with a focus on Post-Colonial and Native Literature. She has travelled extensively, visiting the UK, Israel, South America, and Central America. Her interest in social justice issues and her love of the outdoors led her to a career in organic farming. Heather enjoys cooking, hiking, yoga, and listening to audiobooks while working in the field. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and their three sons.

Robin Tunnicliffe was born in South Porcupine, Ontario, and holds an MA in Food Policy from the University of Victoria. After a family garden inspired an early interest in permaculture and three years spent planting trees convinced her that she wanted to make a living working outside, organic farming seemed the most logical career choice. Robin mentors new farmers and loves to share her farming experiences with others. She enjoys hiking with her dog, salsa dancing, and mountain biking. She lives in Victoria, BC.


All the Dirt is much more than just another dry, nuts-and-bolts, hands-in-the-dirt how-to. It demonstrates that farming can be done successfully, in co-operation with others, all while paying the bills.” —Michael Ableman, farmer, author, and co-director of Vancouver’s SOLEfood

“This timely book speaks to the next generation of farmers, and anyone interested in knowing what it takes to get a healthy dinner to the table. This is also a book about building community and restoring our relationship with nature.” —Carolyn Herriot, author of The Zero-Mile Diet and A Year on the Garden Path

“There is no more formidable force, nor stronger voice, for organic farming on Vancouver Island than Saanich Organics. Heather, Rachel, and Robin have proven that being good stewards of the land, mentoring an entire generation of young farmers, and running a successful business can be mutually compatible.” —David Mincey, Executive Chef/Co-owner Camille’s Restaurant

“The best introduction to farming I’ve ever seen. A fantastic book in all respects!” —Dan Jason, Salt Spring Seeds

“Part inspiration, part manifesto, and part reality check, All the Dirt goes beyond being a handbook of farming know how to passionately illustrate life on today’s next-gen farm. . . . Informative, timely and well written, All the Dirt is a must-read insider’s account of farming today on Vancouver Island.” —Gary Hynes, EAT Magazine

“The really great thing about this book is that although it is a how-to book, it is told through the personal stories of the three authors, so you never feel bogged down in technical talk.” —Don Genova’s Blog

All the Dirt: Reflections on Organic Farming is the would-be organic farmer’s answer book . . . A how-to book with heart and soul.” —January Magazine

“More than simply a how-to book on organic micro-farming . . . All the Dirt: Reflections on Organic Farming is a manual for change.” —Fast Forward Weekly

“Both an inspirational account of modern agricultural life and a cautionary tale of long hours and low pay . . . All The Dirt provides answers rooted in real-world experience, both successes and failures. The authors’ exuberance for their lifestyle choice . . . comes through clearly, as does the growth in material rewards they gleaned from gaining skill, knowledge and experience. For those in love with the idea of sustainable farming, but who harbour doubts about the life it entails, All The Dirt just might tip you in the right direction.” —The Vancouver Sun

“The book offers readers an insightful and inspiring look into the lives of three organic farmers with plenty of local flavour—including sections on deer fencing, the reign of the slugs and coping with exhaustion. . . . As much as All the Dirt charts the success of three organic farms and their families, it doesn’t gloss over any of the challenges faced by today’s farmers.” —Gulf Islands Driftwood

“This timely publication will give assistance to novices, more experienced growers and budding environmentalists . . . [an] amazing hands-on book.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“A remarkable documentation of the personal journey toward a successful career for each of the three young authors revealing her committed and passionate attachment to the land . . . All the Dirt is a unique book: it is extremely well written, clearly organized, peppered with beautiful (at times mouth-watering) coloured photographs. The entire design of the book is remarkable and its production is first-rate.” —Canadian Organic Growers Magazine

“Rich with wonderful stories about life on the farm.” —Times Colonist

All the Dirt is literary fertilizer for the mind and a feast for the eyes . . . You’ll never look at the people behind the vibrant veggies at your local farmers’ market the same way after this read. Organic farmers could ask for no better ambassadors than these three courageous, hard-working, funny, thoughtful women.” —Alberta Views

“While All the Dirt is intended to help people who might undertake organic farming . . . it also has wider appeal. The stories are well told, informative and entertaining, with the human element always at the forefront. Each of the authors has had a different journey and approach and they offer inspiring examples of what is to be gained from trying to live with strength and determination.” —Jewish Independent