Protecting the Dream in Cawston

Corey Brown, an organic farmer in Cawston, BC
Corey Brown, an organic farmer in Cawston, BC

It is common for “creatures of the city” to dream of buying a few acres in the country and settling into a peaceful, idyllic life. For Corey and Colleen Brown, the dream became a reality 11 years ago when they gave up the comforts and amenities of Victoria and bought just over 5 acres in Cawston. Since then they have become aware they must join with others in preserving the dream for themselves, their children, and fellow residents of the Similkameen Valley.

Colleen, a Dietitian, was at work when Linda and I visited the farm last week. “We wanted to raise our children in the country,” Corey said to explain their move here. “Also, I wanted to farm. It’s fortunate we came when prices were still low.”


Walking about the spacious domain of his 99 contented, clucking chickens and listening to Corey, it was easy to mistakenly conclude he is simply one more farmer passionate about his small scale operation. Certainly he is passionate and credits neighbour Moses Brown (no relation) for helping him get started in organic farming. People are eager to buy the eggs. In summer he also raises up to 500 broilers. From Harry Jones, former owner of Iceberg Meats, he learned the art of humanely slaughtering chickens. Interestingly, he was once a committed vegetarian. Currently he is involved with several organic farming organizations and vice president of the Penticton Farmers Market.

Sitting at the kitchen table of their comfortable home, another of Corey’s passions began to emerge, hesitantly at first. He doesn’t like to draw attention to himself.

“I’m deeply involved in the organic scene,” he said, “but I realize one day my 2 children may ask what I did about issues like pollution in the Similkameen River. I want to have an answer for them.” He paused for a moment, then continued, “I want to work with others to create an awareness of the threats facing our community and the entire valley. I feel people need to realize if we’re not involved, we’ll be sold out. Too often people aren’t interested until they understand an issue will impact them personally. It’s important to help them make that connection.”

To this end, under the auspices of “Similkameen Okanagan Organic Producers Association” he recently showed a Naomi Klein documentary film in Cawston. Klein has authored several books, including “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”. He had expected younger people in the audience, but it was mostly Boomers who came. “I did it because I wanted people to be up to date with what’s happening.”

Corey expresses his views with clarity and vigour in conversation, but he’s reluctant to speak in public. “Sometimes after saying something in a meeting, I feel that I didn’t get it right. Then I think I should have remained quiet.”

He realizes though that if people remain silent, “the world will roll over us. We need to push against the boundaries that hold us back.”
He works with others to help people make the connection between their own lives and the destructive forces at work in their community and the larger society. He seems to understand intuitively the words of author John C. Maxwell who has said, “one is too small a number to achieve great things.”

On February 29, from 6 to 9 pm, Friends of the Similkameen River will sponsor a public forum at the Cawston Hall. “It will be a night about water in our valley,” he said.

Sometimes people ask how he continues to be positive when it’s so dark. “I tell them to do some thing,” he said. “If a lot of us do something, we can make things happen. I feel there is a vast grass roots movement around the world.”

Corey views himself simply as one of many seeking to produce positive outcomes in Cawston and the entire Similkameen Valley. He is quick to express gratitude for the encouragement he has received from organic growers and others advocating for the environment and healthy communities. “There’s a core of hard working people in the valley,” he said at the end. “When I’m involved with them, I feel like I’m accomplishing something important. Colleen and I know we must do our part to keep the dream alive for ourselves and others.”

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