Good looking and young, Chris Hall and Stef Lowey should be chilling with friends and frequenting bars and clubs. Instead, the couple recently completed living for one entire year without purchasing a single morsel of food. Their entire diet — 100% of it — was obtained by growing their garden, raising chickens and other animals, and foraging from the land and sea. They have set a new standard for foraging and culinary self-sufficiency.
Arriving at their ocean-front property in the Magic Lake Estate on Pender Island was like entering a botanical garden. More than 75 varieties of vegetables and fruits filled every nook. Ardent environmentalists, the couple did not cut down any trees but planted gardens everywhere. Re-purposed hoses form a drip irrigation system. Their chickens and turkeys help make rich compost. Every deck and walkway is lined with potted plants.
Neither Stef nor Chris has any farming background, so it was a huge learning curve. They gave away all of their packaged food, spurned alcohol, coffee, tea and soft drinks, and started to cultivate their 0.5-acre, ocean-front property so it was soon more like an overflowing farm. Initially it was constant work as they had to build fences, gardens and bird coops as well as experiment with different crops and meals. Today, they grow beets, bok choy, kale, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, rhubarb, lettuce, beans, potatoes, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. They pick walnuts and hazelnuts from nearby trees and they grow stevia to dry and grind as a natural sweetener. Salt is obtained from sea water. “We’re experimenting constantly and it seems like every week we find something new to grow and eat,” said Stef. “We’ve recently planted avocado and fig trees.”
I was amazed at, and jealous of, the quality of the meals they concoct. They regularly consume salmon, oysters, prawns and crab caught from the adjacent sea. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and quail provide not only eggs but also protein. They keep four pigs at a nearby farm. A purple hive houses bees, whose pollination has greatly improved their planted crops. “And the honey is a great sweetener,” adds Chris.
Stef and Chris have documented their journey on YouTube — Lovin off the Land — with regular videos of their daily life, including making flour and spreads from nuts and grinding bone meal, growing mushrooms in fallen logs and foraging for bladderwrack and sea asparagus along their shore.
Both were born and raised on the west coast; they met at an island resort, where they formerly worked. Now, they obtain spending money – they don’t need much with their lifestyle – with Stef giving massages and Chris driving a water taxi to nearby Gulf Islands. Their first year ended on August 2, but Chris and Stef plan to continue living off the land, with one small adjustment. In future, they will purchase small quantities of coffee and wheat, two items they cannot grow.
The couple are amazed at how they transformed what had been stressful lifestyles and unhealthy eating into a more satisfying way of life. With broad grins, they say, “We’re way healthier now, and we’re having much more fun.”
People are captivated by the concept of foraging and getting closer to nature, so Stef and Chris plan to expand on their popular You Tube channel by giving talks and writing a book about their experiences, including recipes. Once covid relents, they are keen to travel and see how living off the land is done in other countries and climates.
The couple’s bold move has raised self-sufficiency to a new level, reducing the 100-mile diet to a few tens of metres.