The Birken / D’Arcy corridor is unique to the Sea to Sky Region. Unhurried, non-commercial, safe, sparsely populated and relatively unchanged throughout the nearly 3 decades I’ve lived here. In fact, there is less here now than there was back then. Its downtown consists of an old resort at Gates Lake, open for a few months, and a telephone booth (there is no cell service). The Demographic is also interesting. It’s more affordable and out of the way and therefore attracts misfits, homesteaders, bohemians, red necks, hermits, draft dodgers, hippie relics, adventurers and commuters to Whistler. There are few, if any, employment opportunities, therefore those who stick it out have become resourceful, artistic and enterprising.
The climate is more arid, being on the cusp of the interior and in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains. Spring comes early. We see more sunny days, warm days, and cool evenings. Its narrow valley is protected by steep mountains. It is not a conventional farming community like Pemberton with acres of flat tillable ground. It is however a great hobby gardening area. Its soils are well drained, mineral rich and ideally suited for fruits, berries, and garlic. Its waters are crisp and clean. I don’t believe a single person uses pesticides. It is sought after for bee keepers for this reason as well as its natural bio-diversity.
I started putting plants and surplus veggies at the top of my driveway with a jar for cash many years ago, mostly for my neighbours. The above photo is circa 1995. I called it the Beer Stand back then. If I had enough for a case for the weekend it was a successful week. Over time it got consistently busier and we added more products. It became the Entertainment Stand where, in good weeks, we could go to a restaurant or even a concert. Our farm is now a registered business and after a good year we can take a vacation at the end of the season. Keeping it stocked is now a part-time job (farming, of course, is full-time), but I have to say it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I joke when being leisurely that I’m currently working my job . The operating costs are extremely low so every sale is a bonus. Farming itself is extremely labour intensive with a low profit margin and high risk. We could never afford to pay someone to sit and serve customers. It’s really the only viable way of doing business in a rural area. If we bring perishables back from the market they quickly go up there in the fridge. We can offer an ever-changing wider selection of items than we would at the farmers market, can keep things fresh and pass our cost savings on to the customer. Win, win, win!
Generally people are honest and since it’s the honour system, we accept e-transfers and IOU’s. Someone, who we caught pinching out of the change jar, returned years later with a letter of apology and a $50 bill. This restored our faith in humanity and the honour system. What comes around goes around.
Birken has now become a valley with many honour stands offering everything from jams to fresh pasta to firewood. It’s a place of cottage industries, where hobbies help many with spare cash. They range from tents, and permanent shelters to coolers. Many interested in setting up their own stand have contacted us wondering if we would be offended by the competition. We look at it the opposite way. The more the merrier! It has started to become a destination place for a casual drive picking up things along the way. Those coming up for a swim in our many lakes can grab some fruit to munch on. Campers and boaters can pick up a fresh bouquet and something to add to their dinners on the way home. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback. It reminds many of their country childhoods and a simpler time when everything was local and fresh and neighbours shared.