When the weather warms up or when visitors come to town, one of my favorite things to do is the Circle Farm Tour! It is such an amazing way to visit some of the local businesses in the area and I love showing off what the Fraser Valley has to offer. We are so lucky in B.C.!!
For those of you who haven’t heard of or been on a Circle Farm Tour, it is a self-guided tour that you take to the locations of your own choice once you’ve picked up one of the easy-to-follow maps. These maps highlight a variety of specialty farmgate vendors, open-air markets, display gardens, artisans and restaurants in the area. The tour maps are available for multiple cities and districts, including Abbotsford, Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows, Langley, Chilliwack and Agassiz & Harrison Mills. Kristi attended the media tour in Langley last week!
I (Shannon) had the pleasure of taking the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour and as usual, I was not disappointed. In fact, I occasionally feel embarrassed about not having been to some of these awesome places sooner. Shame on me for not exploring my own backyard, right?
Even though it was their off-season here on the farm (Apple season usually starts in September and runs to late October), we were treated to a tour of their greenhouses, a small presentation in their Applebarn, an exciting hayride and a sample of their unprecedented apple cider!
Although they might be known primarily for their Applebarn, u-pick apples and seasonal pumpkin patch, we were surprised to learn that Lorne Taves and his family also grow a wide variety of fresh produce; like different types of peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes! It was such a neat experience to actually see how an eggplant grows, and learn all about pepper growing production.
As an aspiring gardener myself, I really enjoyed learning the difference between vine-ripened produce and produce ripened in your kitchen. The result? Produce ripened on the vine may not last as long on your counter, but the distinguishing flavour is always more noticeable, and often naturally sweeter (especially with heirloom tomatoes). Sadly, most of the produce we purchase in the grocery store is picked too early, so that it has plenty of time to ripen while in transit to your home town. Taves Family Farm takes great pride in passing along true fresh veggies to the Abbotsford community, so you can find their Wednesday-picked goodies at many weekend Farmer’s Markets throughout the Fraser Valley! Talk about “from farm to plate!”
From there, Chrissy took over the tour once we arrived at Lepp Farm Market. I was sad to leave, but I knew Chrissy would have a blast – and I would get to read all about it later!
Read below for the rest of Chrissy’s Circle Farm Tour adventure!
I started at the Lepp Farm Market and had the chance to get the grand tour of the facility, including a walk-through of the meat processing area, the chef’s kitchen space and the market itself. This place is a Foodie’s dream-come-true! You may remember our previous Spotlight on this business and the passion that comes straight from the heart of Owner’s Rob and Charlotte Lepp.
It’s amazing to see the focus on quality meat, local and seasonal produce and fresh ingredients. Not only do they have an on-site chef who helps create the in-house selections, but there is a full deli and cafe, where cooking classes are offered regularly. Some of these classes are taught by celebrity Chefs who you may be familiar with. The produce market is sourced by many of Lepp Farm’s own seasonally grown produce and many other local producers are given feature space on the shelves here.
We headed to Tanglebank Gardens & Brambles Bistro next, a new stop that I had never explored. The nursery began back in 1996 when they started selling perennials. They’ve since expanded immensely to include display gardens, a decor store and much more! The Bistro is a new addition to the space in the last year. It has a seasonal, changing menu that uses many of the on-site garden ingredients. During the colder, winter months, Tanglebank turns their space into a heritage Christmas store! This is a great spot if you have green thumbs, or a good appetite. I know I’ll be back soon, Mom in tow.
The next stop at Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery was a familiar one for me, but was just as enjoyable as my first visit. I realize that for some people, the thought of learning about bees may not have you buzzing with excitement, but let me share a secret… Mike & Judy Campbell make bee education more interesting than I ever thought possible. Did you know that it takes approximately 500 bees to make ONE 500 gram jar of honey? Me neither! Did you know that honey is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal? Nope, neither did I. Did you know that in the beehive there are all kinds of “jobs”, from guards to scouts, housekeepers, and even undertakers? Pretty cool, right?
You’ll gasp in shock, laugh with delight and be awed at the amazing things that happen in the hive. Not only that, but there’s a sweet finish to it all. The assortment of honeys produced by their own bees is superb! From fireweed honey to cinnamon creamed honey and lots of varieties in between, this is as sweet as it gets. Not only is there honey on the shelves, Campbell’s Gold produces a variety of honey wines, beeswax candles and much more. This is one stop that both the kids and adults will really enjoy.
What would a tour like this be without a stop at a Winery? Good, yes, but not quite the same, I assure you. Mt. Lehman Winery is setting the bar (ha ha) and giving their competitors a run for their money, both locally and beyond, with multiple awards under their belt. With a true passion for wine, Vern Siemens is constantly crafting his world-class blends, including pinot noir, pinot grigio, chardonnay, merlot and sauvignon blanc. On multiple acres of land in the heart of the Valley, you can drop by to taste, or buy, some of these award-winning wines at their Tasting Room, Wed – Fri from 1-5 and Sat/Sun from 12-5.
After a long, but exciting day, our last stop brought us to Restaurant 62, one of Abbotsford’s finest restaurants. This hidden gem is small in size, but its menu is huge in flavor! I’ve had the joy of dining here before and tonight did not disappoint. Executive Chef Jeff Massey creates seasonal menus using local suppliers’ ingredients and adds a twist to classic dishes.
I was thrilled to work my way through a six-course menu that included stuffed peppers from Tave’s Family Farm and made with Lepp Farm Market farmer sausage, an amazing charcuterie board, featuring cheeses from Goat’s Pride Dairy and other local suppliers, duck breast from Fraser Valley Duck & Goose, roasted pork loin, also from Lepp Farm Market and mascarpone cheesecake with fresh strawberries from Neufeld Farms. All of these dishes were paired beautifully with wines from Mt. Lehman Winery. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is all over again!
Our stops today were just a few of the dozens of places that you can visit on the Circle Farm Tour. Gas up your car, grab your friends or family, make an afternoon or day of it and discover the goodness in your own backyard. You won’t be disappointed!!
You can pick up Circle Farm Tour listings with maps at many of the local Businesses on the tour, or download all five community brochures at www.circlefarmtour.com.