I interviewed several “middle path” farmers for my new book. Middle path to me means, farming as naturally as possible. Vista D’Oro Farm in Langley, BC is one of them; they are organic, but not certified. They grow heirloom tomatoes, some herbs in their little greenhouse and a variety of fruits. They also have a commercial processing kitchen on site so they can make their beautiful artisinal preserves. Turkish Fig and Walnut Wine (my fave), Strawberry with Balsamic and Pink Peppercorns, Green Tomatoe Garam Masala are just a few of the delights they sell in their farmgate shop. The products are also sold through a number of retailers in Vancouver including Whole Foods and Edible BC. And a recent addition to this diverse 10-acre operation: a vineyard. Among their wine selection is a whimsically named pinot noix containing walnuts from their own trees. It’s like a very dry sherry.
“I do everything I can naturally,” says owner Patrick Murphy. “Ninety-nine percent of my clientele say that’s fantastic. I’m not using Killex or Round-up, nothing with petrochemicals in it.”
He looked into certification when he first bought the farm nine years ago, but there was too much paperwork for him. But there’s another reason.
“There are a lot of colourful personalities [in the organic movement] and I just don’t share their passionate, hot views,” he said. “And I don’t have Birkenstocks.”
This savvy marketer (formerly with an auction company) and his equally savvy wife, Lee (trained at DuBrulle Culinary Arts) who heads up the cooking end of things – know what it takes to make a living on the farm these days. Value added. They have a number of interesting relationships with chefs and neighbour farmers.
Vij’s, an Indian fusion restaurant in Vancouver pre-bought all 10,000 pounds of their tomatoes last year. They met at an event put on by Get Local , called Meet your Maker – marketed as speed dating for farmers and chefs. Vij’s staff come out once a week to “dress” the freshly picked tomatoes (meaning they cut away any tatty bits) and put them into buckets, pallet them and send them over to a nearby cold storage place for freezing. And because they were starting grape vines in pots in the usual area that they grow their tomatoes (all in pots in a former, sand-filled horse riding area), they grew their tomatoes in the ground at a nearby neighbour’s farm. They’re also partnering with Oyama Sausages on the walnut wine. A weird marriage, but the sausage guy is a friend and he was walking the farm with Patrick one day and saw the walnut trees and was reminded of an old family recipe.
If you live in the lower mainland, take a drive out there this summer. Bring a picnic lunch and eat it at nearby Campbell Park, or book a table at Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery. Believe me, either way is golden!