Emma’s Acres is a farm that employs survivors/victims, ex-offenders and offenders.
They produce vegetables, herbs and fruits – grown naturally without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers – on an 8-acre property in the beautiful Mission Valley in Southern British Columbia, just miles from the Washington border of the United States.
The produce is sold at the Mission City Farmers’ Market, and to local restaurants and stores. They also make donations to local non profits in the District of Mission including the food banks and the community kitchen.
The proceeds fund the work of Long-Term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C. ), (disclosure: I serve as Board Vice-Chair for LINC).
The CBC recently did a brief documentary on Emma’s Acres profiling two of its participants: John, who robbed and murdered a man in Toronto in 1985; and Ray King, whose son was murdered by Clifford Olsen in 1981. The two toil side-by-side working the farm land each day. You can watch the full documentary here:
At the heart of LINC / Emma’s Acres are Sherry and Glen Flett. It’s their idea, and they started the venture not long after Glen was paroled in 2006. Glen was an accomplice to the murder of Ted Van Sluytman, 40, at a Hudson’s Bay store after a robbery in Toronto on March 27, 1978. Flett was convicted of second-degree murder and served 20 years in prison.
Glen is also featured in the documentary. I have met Glen, and we still correspond occasionally, mainly because we both live and despair each hockey season over the fate of our beloved Habs.
I’m not trying to make light of Glen’s transgression. I do think, however, that Glen made a mistake, served his punishment, and it’s time to forgive. Glen deserves to be humanized, not forever regarded as a criminal.
Emma’s Acres isn’t for everyone. There will always be the sort that will try to game the system. Some offenders cannot be rehabilitated. But for those that are willing to walk the path? Thank God – and Sherry and Glen – for Emma’s Acres.
I’ve never held vengeance in my heart for offenders. It is one of the reasons I was able to reach out to Luc Gregoire in prison shortly before he died, and no doubt one of the reasons he wrote back to me. I didn’t approach him as a criminal. I simply wanted to know if he murdered my sister. Had he affirmed that, I would have had a second, more important question: Why? What happened to you along the way, and what can we do to ensure that you never do something like that again? In some cases the answer is, “never let them engage with society again”. But in other cases the response is, “Give them a second chance”.
I do know this. The answer is not the current justice model in the United States: Endless incarceration. Eradication of mental health funding. Treating drug dependency (prescription or other ) as a crime, not an illness. If that is your model, then don’t be surprised that you are shooting innocent people in the streets over a simple stop-and-frisk.
I sometimes joke with Sherry that when I retire, I’m moving to Emma’s Acres. I’m only half joking. It would be very redeeming to work a field through the day’s light, knowing that the ultimate goal was my welfare, my well-being. Maybe some day.