Food Matters – Feast of Fields Preview

Feast of Fields
Feast of Fields

The fifteenth annual Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island is fast approaching. Next month dozens of local chefs and beverage producers will spend a Sunday afternoon doling out thousands of delicious bite-sized morsels of food in an idyllic pasture. Today on CBC Radio Victoria’s All Points West show, I provided a preview, as well as a chance to win a pair of tickets for this usually sold-out event. 

Pat BarberPat Barber

Feast of Fields is very simple. You show up at a farm somewhere on south Vancouver Island with your ticket. You get a wine glass and a napkin, and you then proceed to wander around the farm, being served small bites of food crafted from local ingredients, along with sips of BC wines, beers, ciders and other beverages. There is live music to listen to, chickens and other farm animals to observe, and as Feast organizer Melanie Banas explains, a general good feeling ensues about what you’ve just eaten and how you’ve eaten it: “Usually around 4 o’clock people start sitting down and lounging in the fields, quite often they get vertical because they are so full of all the great food they’ve been eating! We like the chefs featured at Feast of Fields to use local ingredients in their dishes and to serve them on edible dishware or something that ideally you could just drop on the ground, like a leaf. Or just a simple slice of cucumber is a great thing to serve food on.”

This is one of the main fund-raising events of the year for Farm Folk-City Folk, a non-profit organization that has always been dedicated to increasing the connections between BC farmers and the people who consume their products. In the past the organization has held dozens of events and helped lots of farmers and other food producers with grants to help them get established or provide training programs. Now Melanie Banas says the way in which money is allotted has changed a bit: “Over the past 15 years we have helped a lot of individuals and organizations with grants. Now we have moved to partnering with the Island Chefs Collaborative and VanCity to administer funds through a microloan program, which we think is a great way to help create a sustainable food system in BC.”

And Melanie says there are still some spots for restaurants who want to take part in this year’s Feast of Fields, which is a great place for chefs to expose their food and get to talk with about a thousand people all in one afternoon.

Alderlea FarmAlderlea Farm

This year’s feast is being hosted by Alderlea Farm, a BC-certified biodynamic farm in Glenora, not far from Duncan in the Cowichan Valley. John and Katy Ehrlic own the farm and it certainly fits the ‘bucolic’ description. When I was there yesterday they were touring the farm with Melanie Banas and getting a sense of where all the tents sheltering the restaurants and beverage producers were going to go, logistics about parking and the movement of people to get them spread out on the farm when they arrive.

In addition to the actual growing of vegetables the Ehrlics now supply upwards of 200 families with vegetables through their community supported agriculture program which runs from May through December. People come once a week to pick up a share of that week’s harvest that they’ve paid for at the beginning of the season, which helps Farmer John with the upfront costs of each year’s plantings. Then there is the cafe at the farm, now open for 3 years, where people can have a coffee and lunches or early dinners made from farm-fresh produce.

Farmer John
Farmer John

John feels strongly about having people come to the farm, especially with their children, and that’s why he doesn’t mind opening things up to probably about a thousand people during Feast of fields.

We would like you to love it there as well. We have a pair of tickets to give away for this year’s edition of the Vancouver Island Feast of Fields on Sunday, September 16th at Alderlea Farm in Glenora…but there’s a catch: We want you tell us about your favourite Vancouver Island farm. It can be farm you’ve been to at a previous Feast of Fields, or one that you visited as a child, or go to now as part of your efforts to support local farmers. Just go to the bottom of the comments at the bottom of this blog entry and tell us where the farm is and why you like it so much. One paragraph would be plenty. We’ll choose a winner from the entries. Deadline to be determined, but don’t delay!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Contests, Food Matters and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Food Matters – Feast of Fields Preview

  1. marcia egan says:

    My favourite farm is the one my husband and I live on in Saanich. We have an acre and one half, so it is small as farms go, but since moving here 35 years ago we have put our hearts and souls into this little place. We raised two children here and they grew up helping in the garden, taking care of pigs, sheep, goats and chickens! We have an orchard with trees such as apple, plum, cherry, pear and quince. We grow our own blueberries, raspberries and when we are lucky, strawberries….and we are getting our first crop of hazelnuts this year. Our son is a chef at the Superior Cafe and occasionally we have enough produce from the garden to give him some lettuce or swiss chard or figs to use in the restaurant. I have learned to use what we grow to make many things, but my husband loves the HP sauce I make from our plums the best! Last, but not least, my husband became a bee keeper when he retired, so we have a couple of bee hives here and our bees make the loveliest honey…. it has been a labour of love living here and I wouldn’t trade our experiences for the world!

  2. Beth May says:

    My favorite memories of a farm are from my childhood. Growing up in rural Powell River, there were not always many chances to buy local food. My father, ever conscious of the importance of supporting local produce, would jump on whatever was available. Lisa Daniels poultry farm was a perfect opportunity. Lisa is one those wise souls whose word of expertise leaves no room for juvenile contradiction. She knows and loves her field of work with a hard working and meticulous passion. She once told me, as a child, that I would grow to be a chicken lady, a comment which I accepted with great pride. It is these memories, of visiting Lisa’s farms and playing with the happy, curious, and character filled chickens clucking and scratching under the golden afternoon sun, that began my devotion for supporting and eating only free range animal. Animals I can be assured had, if not a perfectly happy live, a life which offered them the opportunity to live a little. As a child, and now as a young women, I take great joy in the knowledge that the chickens I eat lived a life full of fresh air and grass, beetles and dust baths.

  3. Lynne Milnes says:

    Sustainable Farms- Ravenhill Herb Farm is where I fell in love with sustainable Vancouver Island farming. The late Noel Richardson and Andrew Yeoman were the founding farmers for Feast of Fields with their lambs, geese, hens ( “the girls”), Vincent van Goat, peacocks howling in Douglas fir trees and their dogs Vita and later Tallulah. Besides growing herb plants for sale Noel wrote best-selling cookbooks [Summer Delights, Winter Pleasures] and Andrew wrote a very user-friendly guide [West Coast Kitchen Guide] to growing everything in our climate. In the winter they would clean out the barn and host a craft sale that kept many a local farmer and grower in cash during the colder months. They were generous, gracious and humble about all they did to produce delicious, local, sustainable food. Visitors came from all over the world and their garden was written up in every gardening book including those in Europe and Asia. The farm is still producing herb plants but like Andrew, I miss Noel more than I can say.

  4. Mary Ann Watson says:

    Forgive me Don… more than a plentiful paragraph! Contagious Passion caught at Organic Fair Farm and Garden.

    I have fond memories of the farm I grew up on that have sustained me and my passion for quality food. However I no longer live on a farm and have struggled with guilt that I am not providing my young sons the same opportunity to connect with nature and quality food. Fortunately, we do live in the Cowichan Valley where there is an abundance of incredibly talented and passionate farmers.

    It provides us the luxury of having a favourite farmer for very specific foods – Apple Jack Farm for garlic or Makaria for their CSA or Terra Nosa for lamb or Baird Cattle for beef or Alderlea for their beets or Pedrosa’s for asparagus. Farm Gating in Cowichan is the most rewarding road trip you could ever wish for and at the end you can enjoy a feast that is fit for royalty.

    Yet there is one place that stands out for me, it is very special to my whole family it is not just a farm but a true gourmet food oasis. Located at 1935 Doran Road in Cobble Hill is Organic Fair Farm and Garden. It is enchanting, there are aromatics, heritage chickens and their lovely eggs, Muscovy ducks with cute ducklings, Nubian goats with the darling kids and the official greeters Mo and Daisy, the farm dogs.

    My sons love this place not only because of the relaxing farm atmosphere but because it has the magic of childhood nostalgia. Upon arrival they meander down the garden path to the farm store where they can enjoy delicious organic small batch ice cream. They love to read the ice cream board as the flavours always change with the most intriguing ingredients — lemon curd, beet orange curd, logan berry swirl, black cherry chocolate almond, cajeta pepita chèvre (goat milk caramel, pumpkin seeds and chèvre cheese) or sure to please favourites vanilla bean or chocolate hazelnut. They even serve vegan sorbets and Raspados (snow cones). The Raspados are made with the farm’s soda syrups — with flavours like strawberry Douglas fir, lavender lemonbalm lemonade, rhubarb vanilla or the boys’ favourite root beer. We sometimes sit back and enjoy a round of root beer floats.

    We visit the store to purchase chocolate, coffee, teas, hot chocolate, spices, spice rubs, salts, soda syrups, essential oils and hydrosols, fresh free range eggs and pints of ice cream to stock our pantry or sometimes as gifts. All of these products are organic, wholesome, healthy and delicious. I can feed them to my family both guilt and glucose free. The ingredients are things you can recognize and every product has a flavour profile that develops on your palette like a good farm story.

    Over the years we have enjoyed many Organic Fair Farm and Garden experiences which have instilled in our boys a sense of responsibility to ensuring that healthy sustainable food is attainable for everyone. This year, the stand out experience was Organic Fair’s Food Revolution Day, supporting the Jamie Oliver Foundation and food education. The knowledge shared and example set by Marisa and Kent Goodwin is inspiring, they demonstrate a passion that is contagious.

    My children have created their own farm memories at Organic Fair Farm and Garden thanks to its’ generous owners and their beautiful children. This summer the boys have hugged baby nubian goats, an experience that lasts for a lifetime — #goatlove; they have held fluffy baby chicks; and, watched the Muscovy ducklings grow to fulfil their destiny at our dinner table.

    Don at our house , when we count our blessings, we count Organic Fair Farm and Garden amoung them.

  5. Gord Iversen says:

    My favourite farm is the previous Feast of Field host, Providence Farm. Providence is a very special and unique therapeutic community dedicated to growth and healing, on a number of levels. Having had the opportunity to both volunteer and be a patron at the farm, I have enjoyed the experience of walking the sacred land, tasting the bounty, and feeling the generosity and gratitude of staff and clients. It has has always fueled my soul and inspiration. There are too few farms like Providence in our country, so it is very important to promote and participate in the socially responsible production of food, helping support community, and those who experience challenges.

  6. Katrina Stipec says:

    My family and I live in Brentwood Bay and have recently become acquainted with Marsh Farm on Wallace Rd. It uses the old reliable honour system which I find so inspiring and refreshing. My children love it there (3 and 5), they get to choose a basket of their choice and spend some time wandering the “aisles” of vegetables, herbs and fruits. There is always a helpful person to help if you are still learning how to harvest, and I can’t think of a better way to introduce my kids to their next meal. We spent a lovely morning picking berries there this past weekend. I always leave feeling uplifted and with renewed hope in the spirit of community! Oh, and the fresh food is glorious!

  7. Naomi Barclay says:

    My favourite farm was the family farm we used to visit every summer. My mom’s family is Japanese Canadian and after WW2 they moved the family to Kamloops BC. There they farmed vegetables which they used to feed the very large family (15 kids and lots of others). When I was a kid we would visit my Gramma at the farm and we would work a lot in the huge garden. Before we were allowed to ride our bikes or build forts we had to do something in the garden. This usually meant picking peas from the 100 foot long rows. Not only did we pick peas but we also had to shell them! We all became very good at getting this job done. We were always rewarded with treats from Gramma for all of our efforts. She is gone now but I think of her often as I am picking or harvesting the veggies from my own small garden.

  8. Devon Coles says:

    Hat’s off to the Feast of Fields celebration of the farming way of life and the support it brings to the farming community. We all win! And for my contest entry, I guess my favorite farm lives now only in bittersweet memory . . .

    Nature Will Out

    The last of the Heffernans sold off the livestock,
    Packed what they valued and left this farm.
    There wasn’t much. A three-quarter ton held it.
    Twelve years gone and no one’s worked the place.

    Sunlight touches the side-yard now the barn’s fallen.
    Scotch thistle bristle purple beards through the fence line,
    Big as dinner plates on stalks like tree trunks.
    Bindweed, shamrock, marsh marigold, golden glow.

    Frank spent thirty bitter years
    Beating back those goddamned weeds.
    The family waited silent in the truck
    While he took one last look at his defeat,
    And no one heard him curse beneath his breath,
    “Rise up, ye lusty prodigals!
    And bloom yourselves to death.”

  9. Danielle Harder says:

    My favourite farm was my aunt and uncle’s raspberry farm. I recall many days of picking the plump, juicy berries on hot summer days, usually picking them directly into my mouth instead of the bucket in hand. Though many of the pickers were there as part of their summer employment, my mom and I would go and pick just enough to can and to make jam to enjoy the delicious fruit in the winter months. On occasion I would receive a gently scolding from my uncle for only wearing a t-shirt and shorts on such a sunny day, though moments later he would be covering my fair skin with one of his (enormous on me) long sleeved shirts and a wide brim hat. Their farm was host to countless family gatherings, weddings, and baby showers, with plenty of space for kids to run and play, swing on tire swings, or hide in the raspberry bushes and shady areas for the adults to visit and leisurely sip their coffee. Age and health issues have caught up with my aunt and uncle, making farming no longer possible. Last summer I visited the farm and said my goodbyes as they had sold the farm and were downsizing to a condo. A few tears were shed that day (from both me and them) as it signified the end of a era for our family. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have had the farm in my childhood – I have wonderful memories from my time spent there. I’m sure it also contributed in a large part to my intense love of raspberries!

Comments are closed.