Summer has arrived and to celebrate the season’s abundant produce I went on an escorted Circle Farm Tour in Abbotsford. If you have no idea what a “Circle Farm Tour” is, it’s a self-guided tour of an agricultural region with focus on the local farms and artisans. If your mission is to eat local, discover new suppliers, and support your local economy than this free tour is for you! In addition to Abbotsford, there are tours in Langley, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows and, the one that I’ve done part of, Agassiz Harrison Mills.
With me on this particular tour were other food/lifestyle writers: Richard Wolak, Mijune Pak, Kristi Ferguson, Rebecca Bolwitt and Dennis Pang. We were led by Andrea Visscher from Vancouver Coast and Mountain Tourism, Yvonne Harden from Tourism Abbotsford, and Summer Dhillon and Adam Trombley from SLAP Communications.
Departing from Downtown Vancouver, we hopped on a bus and started our journey. After roughly an hour and a half of driving we arrived at our first stop of the day, Taves Family Farms.
I have been to Taves a few times in the Fall to find a pumpkin, pick apples, play with the goats, go on a hayride, and drink apple slushies (delicious and naturally sweetened). This was my first time, though, exploring the greenhouse and meeting the owner, Loren Taves, who runs the farm with his wife Corinne, and their children. As Loren took us on a mini tour, he gave us a brief history of the three generation farm that grew from primarily bell peppers to include pointed peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.
To give you an idea of how much produce they grow at Taves, roughly 200,000 – 250,000 peppers will be picked from the end of June to the end of July. Those same bell peppers can be purchased at $5 per bag, which is an incredible deal if you’re used to shopping at grocery stores in Vancouver, where you’re lucky to pay $1.60 each. Still, people always try to get the most bang for their buck and it’s not uncommon for stems to be removed and bags to be overflowing. Loren realizes that this isn’t the most profitable way of doing business, but it’s this generosity and kind-spirited service that grew the company organically to now bring in approximately 400,000 people each year. And that doesn’t include those who purchase the Taves’ products from their local Farmer’s Market.
During our tour, with a bell pepper in hand, Loren shared his favourite way of enjoying them: stuffed with fresh ricotta, bacon bits, parmesan cheese and green onions, drizzled with olive oil, then grilled on the BBQ. Sounds like the perfect summer treat to me. If only my condo allowed BBQs… (For more recipes from the Taves, check out “Cooking with the Taves”)
Loren also shared tidbits of farming advice, such as the optimal size for eggplants (200 grams), emphasizing that the flavour profile changes with growth beyond that. Plus, some places like Costco – one of many places Taves distributes produce to – are very particular about having consistent sizes because they sell by the bag and advertise it as a certain weight. Consistency is key, and while Loren is a veteran, having learned from his father and his father’s father, the job remains tasking, but rewarding.
“Growing food is hard, but that’s the fun, that’s the climb.” – Loren Taves
After an hour at Taves touring the greenhouse, then sipping naturally sweetened hot apple cider and chatting with Loren, we were off to stop # 2, Lepp Farm Market.
For more photos check out my Circle Farm Tour Abbotsford set on Flickr.