When he couldn’t put boots on the ground as a firefighter, Carlin farmer Forrest Shuster contributed to wildfire relief by putting his boots in the field.
Shuster, the owner-operator of the corn and pumpkin operations at Destiny Acres Farm donated more than 600 cobs of corn to be distributed to people affected by the Bush Creek East wildfire.
It was fortuitous, says Shuster of the August afternoon when Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) volunteer Bill Crozier pulled into the farmyard in a vehicle pulling an Emergency Social Services trailer.
“He asked about the possibility of a donation,” Shuster says, noting the Trans-Canada closure and tourist exodus had drastically reduced sales, leaving him with a great deal of corn. “He showed up at the right time with the right question.”
Crozier, a retired RCMP member, who has volunteered with the SEP’s Emergency Social Services (ESS) for 14 years, was impressed when he returned to Destiny Acres two days later to find bags of corn ready for distribution.
Having sent all his workers home when the Bush Creek East wildfire jumped the highway on August 18, Shuster picked almost all the cobs by himself, with a bit of help from his young niece and nephew who helped him bag the corn that Crozier transported to the North Shuswap.
Crozier delivered 500 cobs to Lakeview Centre in Anglemont with 100 set aside for Seymour Arm. He then drove to St. Ives where he left 100 for that community.
While in the North Shuswap, Crozier spoke to a man who had been a longtime firefighter and had lost everything in the fire. He declared his glass was still half-full because nobody had lost their life in the fire.
Crozier was also impressed that Anglemont volunteers continued to cook for firefighters at the Lakeview Centre, despite being without power.
“When I retired from the force, my view of humanity was quite shaded,” he says. “It’s a shame that it takes a tragedy like this to reinstate my faith in humanity, in that it brings the community together.”
Shuster has been growing and selling sweet corn for 11 years, beginning by selling from a wheelbarrow to now tending to some 100,000 cobs in seven acres.
Corn season has now ended, and Shuster has turned his attention to his annual pumpkin patch, which is expected to open in time for Thanksgiving.
Photo: Forrest Shuster after picking corn in his Carlin cornfield. (CSRD photo)