‘So much love and appreciation’ as family finds strength in community after fire

Fire ravages Island of Eden Farm outside of Courtenay

Alain and Chrissie Lepine with their family. Their business - Island of Eden Farm which produces microgreens - suffered a loss as a fire ravaged the building that held their entire operation. GoFundMe photo

Alain and Chrissie Lepine with their family. Their business - Island of Eden Farm which produces microgreens - suffered a loss as a fire ravaged the building that held their entire operation. GoFundMe photo

Weekends for the Lepine family generally consist of attending both the Comox Valley and Qualicum Beach farmers’ markets, selling more than 200 pounds of microgreens a week through their Island of Eden Farm.

The plans for the Comox Valley family have now changed, as the building that held their entire operation, including other personal items belonging to them and other people who lived on their property, burned to the ground around 1 a.m. on Nov.2.

Rather than focus on what they lost, the couple is leaning upon the kindness of the community and say they are truly grateful for those offering to help.

“I’m just so amazed and grateful; it truly takes a village and a community and they’ve just carried us through,” explains Chrissy Lepine.

The early morning fire is the third event in a string of bad luck the couple has recently experienced; they moved back to the Comox Valley after spending time in Dawson Creek. Lepine’s husband Alain drove a large commercial truck when he experienced an explosion and sustained a variety of injuries.

Upon moving to the Valley and during Alain’s recovery, the couple developed a passion for growing their own food. Chrissy’s father is a farmer and assisted the couple, and they began growing in a garage using aquaponics – a system that uses aquaculture with hydroponics.

“It was a new spark in him – feeding people. We found this passion for year-round growth and food security, and we began leasing land. There is such joy in no-spray, clean food and we truly believe in the value of you are what you eat,” she explains.

As their farm grew, the couple expanded their farm into a shipping container, which caught fire, but Lepine says they took the setback in stride.

“We believe in rebuilding and we’ll get back stronger.”

They purchased a 78-acre property off of the Comox Logging Road outside of Courtenay with a 5,000-square-foot shop and used a small section of the shop to rebuild their growing operation. They grew 32 different types of microgreens and not only sold the items at the markets but participated in the Community Supported Agriculture food box program.

Chrissy awoke in the morning hours of Nov. 2 to lights on their property and their dog barking. By the time the fire department arrived, the building was unsalvageable. While they do use heaters and a fireplace to heat the structure, they do not know the cause of the fire. In addition to their business, they lost about $5,000 worth of seeds, along with their personal items, tools and other personal items kept inside the building by other people living on their property.

While there was a barn nearby with livestock, the fire did not spread. The couple purchased the property in May but did not have insurance.

Chrissy explains she went from “bad shock to good shock” very quickly, as neighbours, friends and the community quickly rallied together to help. Neighbours immediately helped move debris and a friend assisted with getting their hydro back online.

“There is so much love and appreciation –that’s what amazes me so much. When horrible things do happen, people come together and that truly can carry a person – the truth of the value of looking out for each other.”

The couple plan on taking about two weeks off from markets while they try to get their business running again.

Their friend Hana Richardson created a GoFundMe page to assist the family and those who lost items in the fire. For more information or to donate, visit https://bit.ly/2U0zsBl

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