Last week, a few local food and lifestyles bloggers were invited by the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Tourism Region to spend a day out in the Fraser Valley for the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour. The Circle Farm Tour is a self-guided tour which features the best that Abbotsford has to offer in terms of country markets, farms, wineries, and restaurants. With 17 stops on the tour, today we spent the day visiting just 6 of them.
Taves Family Farms Applebarn
With artisan peppers, eggplants, mini cukes, and apples, just to name a few, the Taves Family Farms Applebarn has established itself as a major produce supplier in the Fraser Valley. Loren and Corrine Taves have made this farm a family destination. In the fall season, you can find freshly roasted and buttered corn-on-the-cob, U-Pick Apples, a corn maze, pumpkin cannons, hayrides, a petting zoo, and more. Since we were here in the off season, we didn’t get to experience a lot of these activities. However, we were able to tour their greenhouse and the Apple Cider store.
This is as fresh as produce gets. Rows of unripened heirloom tomato and eggplant vines (above) and artisan peppers (below)
Below: We visited the Applebarn, where we got to see the machinery they use to make apple cider. We also all sampled their hot apple cider. It was delicious, fragrant, and it tasted like warm apple pie. Perfect for a chilly, rainy day.
They are open 7 days a week in September and October, and select dates in the off season. Since I haven’t been here in the fall, I will certainly make an effort to check them out later this year to partake in all the other fun activities.
Lepp Farm Market
The next stop on our tour was at Lepp Farm Market. A second generation family business owned and operated by Charlotte and Rob Lepp, the market combines Rob’s passion for farming with Charlotte’s passion for preparing locally sourced foods.
We suited up in butcher aprons where Jason gave us a tour of their meat production area (above), where they transform dry-aged beef into fine cuts of meat. With an experienced and skilled butcher team, Lepp Farms has a reputation for producing award-winning sausages (below).
We sampled some farmer’s sausages (left) and pulled pork served on endives and drizzled in a balsamic reduction (right). In addition to all this meat, Lepp Farms also has seasonally grown produce, locally produced pies, cheeses, condiments, cooking classes and more.
Tanglebank Gardens & Brambles Bistro
After quite a busy morning, we had all worked up quite the appetite, so we stopped for lunch at Brambles Bistro, the restaurant connected to Tanglebank Gardens, a boutique style nursery. With a garden centre in the front and a restaurant inside, Tanglebank has become a favourite destination for both beginner and avid gardeners alike.
Above: Fraser Valley Duck Clubhouse with bacon, apricot chutney, feta cheese, and spinach on potato-scallion bread.
Left: Thai coconut chicken wrap – green Thai curry, mango-jicama slaw and toasted coconut wrapped in naan bread. Right: Short rib sandwich on a grilled ciabatta – braised beef, caramelized onions, smoked gouda, roasted garlic mayo, tomato and orange jam.
Left: Lunching with Rebecca (Miss604), Richard (Vanfoodster), Mijune (followmefoodie), and other local food/lifestyles bloggers. Right: Chocolate brownie for dessert.
Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery
After lunch, we headed off to Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery to meet up with Mike and Judy Campbell. What started off as a beekeeping hobby for Mike, he managed to turn it into a full-time passion, and even convinced his wife Judy to follow in his footsteps. Together they run the honey farm and licensed meadery, where they produce a variety of honey wines, flavoured and natural source honeys, beeswax, candles, beeswax ointments and lotions, honey soaps, honeycomb and more.
Left: Judy and Mike are extremely passionate about bee education and literally gave us a lesson on the birds and the bees. We learned a lot of interesting beekeeping facts. Did you know that bees only live for 30 days and each bee produces about 1 gram of honey in its lifetime? The next time you see a jar of honey, think about how many bees it took to make it. Huh. Right: We sampled mead (honey wine), believed to be the oldest known alcoholic beverage discovered by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia several thousand years before Christ. We also tried melomel, which is pretty much fruit flavoured mead. A bit on the sweet side, they would be great in small volumes as dessert wine. Below: The Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm also grows grapes, fruits, and berries, and their bees draw the nectar which is used to produce flavoured honeys.
Mt. Lehman Winery
While the Fraser Valley isn’t considered much of a wine producing area, that didn’t stop Vern Siemens, farmer/winemaker/proprietor of Mt. Lehman Winery, from creating a successful boutique winery. Siemens creates natural, award-winning wines using organic growing standards on the rolling hills of what used to be a dairy and hay farm. The cooler Fraser Valley temperatures and shorter summers allow Siemens to make wines that are lower in alcohol than those you find from warmer, dryer, long-summer climates.
For dinner, we stopped at Restaurant 62, where Chef Jeff Massey dazzled us with a 6-course wine pairing dinner featuring hyperlocally sourced ingredients.
Below: Stuffed bell peppers from Taves Family Farms.
Left: One Love Organic Farm‘s garlic scape veloute soup with leeks and zucchini; Right: Charcuterie board with Farmhouse, Smits & Co., and Goat’s Pride cheeses, Lepp Farm Market salami and sausage, and Missing Goat Farm rhubarb jam.
Left: Fraser Valley Duck and Goose duck breast with Crisp Organics swiss chard, asiago & pine nut pie, and Taves Family Farms poached tomatoes. Right: Lepp Farm Market roasted pork loin with Taves Family Farms eggplant tiene and braised kale from Crisp Organics.
Bottom: Mascarpone cheesecake with Neufeld Farms strawberries.
Spending an entire day in Abbotsford was eye-opening for me, as I had no idea that there was so much great stuff happening out here in the Fraser Valley. Although it is relatively close to Greater Vancouver, I had only been there a handful of times in my entire life. Big thanks goes out to Tourism Abbotsford and Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Tourism Region for hosting this wonderful tour and for making this possible. If you have a passion for food and wonder where the food on your fork comes from, be sure to visit Abbotsford and check out the Circle Farm Tour. There’s a good chance that you’ve had a taste of the Fraser Valley without even knowing it.