Although he’d humbly deny it, Christian Wright is a big dill. One of the most recognizable faces of urban farming in Canmore and a bartender at The Drake Pub, he’s both a people and a plant person. Through working these two gigs, he’s found inner peas: channeling his inner Buddha while pulling weeds alone in the garden as well as when he has to tell a customer that he’s been cut off for the evening. Not that he focuses on the negative or anything — Wright is too busy digging life.
In fact, the grass hasn’t been greener on his side since he moved to the mountains from Toronto in 2007. New to town and working as a prep cook at a downtown restaurant, he saw how much pre-consumer waste was being thrown away, mostly carrot and potato peels and onion ends. This led to his self-guided study into vermicomposting and soil remediation. It’s also how he became a part of the Canmore Community Gardening Society (volunteer-based, not-for-profit) and Farm Box (fresh food delivery business) family.
“Christian came to the Canmore Community Gardening Society’s spring annual general meeting in 2012 and said to us, ‘I want to start a composting business.’ We thought he was so legit because his mom was even there,” says Farm Box co-founder Avni Soma.
Last summer, Wright conducted small-scale tests in his shed, turning food scraps from the Canmore Golf and Curling Club into vermicompost. The compost extract was then used in experimental fertilizing of a tee box. Dubbed Sweet Earth, a pilot program for the real deal is currently pending approval from the province.
In addition, Wright helped to start Alpine Edible Schoolyards, the not-for-profit offshoot of Farm Box, which has turned the rooftop garden at Canmore Collegiate High School, as well as a quarter-acre of land at Lawrence Grassi Middle School, into outdoor classrooms.
And when he’s not asking Alpenglow School students to refrain from eating clover or listening to customers confiding in him about their love lives from behind the bar, Wright is playing Settlers of Catan at the Canmore Hotel on Monday nights, where he strongly advises securing good numbers and a diversity of resources when selecting settlements.
But basically, this 33-year-old, weekday vegetarian is cultivating fresh food culture 24/7/365 in the Bow Valley because he’s a firm believer of taking organic materials into our own hands.
“I’m sick of people pointing palms to the sky and blaming government and corporations,” says Wright. “We can be the biggest drivers of positive change, and, if we work together, we can create a lot more positive change than waiting for someone else to do it.”
IN HIS OWN WORDS
In one sentence, how would you describe yourself?
I can’t describe myself in just one sentence…but, as a good friend of mine used to say….”drive hard to the net and good things will happen”.
What are some of the struggles you find yourself facing in the Bow Valley?
Short growing season, shallow rocky soils, not enough hours in the day, and overcoming ingrained attitudes that we can’t compost or garden responsibly in a wildlife sensitive area.
Who is someone you admire? Why?
There are many people that I admire, but if I must pick just one…I’ll go with Michael Pollan, my favourite author at the moment.
What keeps you here in the Bow Valley?
Lots of good friends, my sister Ashley and niece Sofia, the beauty of the mountains and the challenge of establishing a thriving school garden and composting project.
What is one of your greatest vices?
If by vice you are referring to something I do habitually that ultimately has a detrimental effect on my well being…I guess you could say that being a big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a serious vice of mine.
When are you most content?
I feel very content after a good day of hard work, enjoying a couple of beers and the company of good friends.