Farm Blog

Place Order
What buying local food in the Lower Mainland actually looks like

Posted by: Trevor

January 16, 2012

Over the past few years we've been trying to buy as much of our food from local, organic producers as possible. Yes, we produce a large portion of our own food (meat, eggs, and so on) --- but there are still quite a few gaps.

Thankfully we live in an area where growing food is relatively easy, and therefore eating local food is very possible (not like our friends who live up north, whose local choices are limited to wild game and the like).

Living where we do (in the central Fraser Valley) there are a number of things that do well in our climate and land-base, that really make good sense agriculturally.

The Sumas flats in Abbotsford are very agriculturally productive.

Number one, the flat parts of the Fraser Valley (ex. Abbotsford all the way out to Richmond) are excellent for growing vegetables in the warmer months. While only a small portion is currently being used to grow organic vegetables, still there is some availability of organic produce. This is where canning or freezing comes in handy because once autumn rolls around, vegetable production falls off (unless you buy greenhouse produce, which personally we don't favor as much as outdoor).

Two, the mountains of the lower Fraser Valley are ideal for grazing and tree crops. Hillside farming (which is what we do on our farm, since we are on a mountain) is exciting because it really, in our opinion, represents the future of farming. The world is mostly made up of hillsides, not flat arable land. But the challenging thing about hillsides is that they only support no-till farming (plowing on a hillside leads to rapid soil erosion). That's why mountainsides are more suited to the kinds of agriculture which don't need a plow.

In our climate, the grazing/foraging livestock species which do quite well are cattle and pigs. So do certain breeds of sheep (just the breeds which tolerate long rainy periods) and goats --- although the meat from these species is not as popular as beef or pork.

Pigs, in particular, thrive in our climate. They love foraging, especially in the woods, and really are ideal for the hillside topography that skirts the lower mainland. Cattle do well too, but they need quite a bit of space --- and very few farmers with large, flat arable land holdings will graze cattle --- instead they find it more profitable to grow hay or cow-corn and the like as inputs for their barn-dairy operations. As such, putting beef cows out to graze means putting them on the mountains to forage --- which is fine, cows do well on hillsides --- the Swiss have been experts at this for hundreds of years. Here on our farm, our beef cattle thrive on the mountainside.

This is a Swiss cow, grazing a Swiss mountain. Source: Wikimedia.

The tree crops that do well in the lower mainland are apples, pears, plums and hazelnuts. I'm sure there are others that do well too, but these are the main ones. That being said, to grow organic apples down here means you're probably going to have scabby fruit (this is due to all the rain we get --- apples tend to get scabby in a wet climate). The non-organic producers are able to deal with this problem by spraying chemicals, but of course that's not what we want. The solution: eat scabby apples. They won't hurt you. They taste delicious, even with imperfect looking skins. But they also juice wonderfully, and as long as you have a freezer, you've got apple juice all year.

One of our apple trees, and a plum tree [left].

Four, berry crops. This is one of the joys of the lower mainland, all the summer berries. We are so grateful that there are a few local organic producers of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Five --- some may be saying "Hey, what about fish?" True we live in a region where we should be eating loads of seafood (as the Natives used to) --- but the problem is water pollution, so we've become reluctant to eat that much local seafood.

Six, if you are willing to include the Okanagan as "local" (it's not really local) then you can even source organic local bread products. Certain grain crops grow well in the Okanagan and if you look hard enough you can find the handful of organic farms who are producing them, but you'll probably need to go there (this is something we do in the summer). Of course, if you are there in the summer, you can load up on organic peaches too (something we do, and then can them so they last the year). Again, not really local, but so many families travel there in the summer that if you're already going there, load up the cooler.

The big thing in all this is also owning a freezer. That's not always easy if you live in the city. But if you can manage to fit one into your space, it really opens up more vistas to you. This morning (it's the middle of January) we had organic strawberries and blueberries at breakfast --- from the freezer of course. We loaded up the freezer with local organic berries this past summer.

Other Farm Blog Posts

November 7, 2020How to Get Enough Vitamin K2 In Your Diet
October 3, 2020The Secret to Optimizing Collagen Synthesis in Your Body
July 18, 2020Here is an Easy Way to Improve Your Sleep
July 4, 2020Do We Become What We Eat? Please Consider This
June 14, 2020A Delicious Way To Increase Your Selenium Intake
June 6, 2020Three Great Natural Sources of Vitamin D
May 31, 2020Nourishing Your Body with Natural Choline
February 15, 2019Is Organic Healthier? Study Shows Remarkable Benefits
January 27, 2018A Delicious Way To Boost Your Polyphenol Intake
September 11, 2017Better Than Garlic Butter, Whipped Lard Is So Good
March 17, 2016Chicken Bone Broth - A Healthy Start to Your Day
March 7, 2016Making Ultra-Nutritious Beef Back Ribs
February 25, 2016How To Make Super Healthy Pork Rinds
February 16, 2016A Delicious And Easy Way To Boost Your CoQ10 Intake
February 9, 2016How To Get Your Daily Dose Of Vitamin D From Pork
August 28, 2015Air-Chilled Chicken: 4 Reasons It's Better
March 19, 2015This Orphan Lamb Is Too Cute!
March 12, 2015These Fascinating Meat-Sheep Are New Additions To Our Farm
September 9, 2014These Pigs Are Having A Picnic In The Forest, Watch Them Having Fun
July 11, 2014Why Happy Cows Love Rotational Grazing... Watch As They Get Moved
June 18, 2014Watch As These Happy Chickens Enjoy Life, On The Grass And In The Sun
June 15, 2014She Went Vegan To Cure Her IBS
June 4, 2014Just Born: New Piglets, And They're Absolutely Adorable
May 20, 2014Alpaca's Getting Haircuts, Just In Time For Summer
May 11, 2014Baby Calves Galore, Momma Cow Has Twins
May 1, 2014Pigs On Spring Pasture At Sumas Mountain Farms
April 24, 2014Could West Coast Maple Syrup Be A Nutrient-Dense Superfood?
April 23, 2014How To Make Your Own West Coast Maple Syrup
April 18, 2014Watch Out For Local Suppliers Selling Fake Organic Food
April 16, 2014How to enjoy the benefits of wild Oregon grapes and thimbleberries
April 11, 2014A Traditional Festive Roasted Ham, With The Bone-In
April 2, 2014The astonishing super-nutrition of red marrow beef bones
December 10, 2013A Christmas Pig's Head Feast
November 20, 2013Buying your chicken in the US? It could be imported from China
November 14, 2013Rethinking seafood: 4 alarming reasons why it may be unhealthy
October 15, 2013Thanksgiving at Sumas Mountain Farms
September 17, 2013Lard: the momentum just keeps growing
August 21, 2013Another big health reason to buy organic, grass-only beef
July 25, 2013How to avoid dangerous fluoride levels in non-organic food
July 18, 2013Why grass-only beef has yellow fat, and why it's better
July 9, 2013Shill scientists still bashing organic
May 6, 2013Organic mixed farms vs. conventional monocultures
April 19, 2013Why buying locally produced food isn't enough
April 1, 2013More reasons to love, experience lard
March 25, 2013Dandelion chickens on spring pasture
March 19, 2013Bees and bugs: pollinators in action on our farm
October 30, 2012Small-scale family farms under attack by local governments
October 10, 2012CKNW news "The Bill Good Show" interviews Sumas Mountain Farms
October 8, 2012CBC television news visits Sumas Mountain Farms
October 3, 2012Why organic, local, small scale agriculture is healthier & safer
August 8, 2012Reflections on Lard - and vitamins A, D, E & K
June 27, 20126 reasons why pastured pigs are healthier and happier
June 25, 2012The best meatballs I've ever had
June 20, 2012Why organic farms are the best way to increase "green space"
June 18, 2012This tastes so good: Bacon-stuffed Pork Chops
June 11, 2012Cows on spring pasture
June 4, 2012Making parks more useful --- food security 101
May 29, 2012Reconstructing local food economies
May 22, 2012Why our eggs are totally soy-free
April 30, 2012A cow's life at Sumas Mountain Farms
April 24, 2012New Rideshare service allows customers to "carpool" their orders
April 21, 2012Now in stock: certified organic grass-only beef
April 18, 2012Reprieve: no GMO pigs in the food supply... for now
April 12, 2012Is food really too cheap?
March 21, 2012Easter hams are now in stock; more beef in 4 weeks
March 12, 2012Pork tenderloin is now back in stock: soy-free, certified organic, pastured, heritage breed
March 5, 2012Save the bees: What we're doing this summer
February 27, 2012Producing and preparing your own food
February 20, 2012Bee wars: the next frontier in global food dominance
February 13, 2012False organic claims: How some local food-suppliers are misleading consumers...
February 6, 2012The best way to avoid eating Roundup
January 30, 2012Tapping big-leaf maple trees for sap
January 23, 2012Snowing on the farm
January 9, 2012Pig's head: a healthy, traditional food
January 2, 2012Why local, organic food is important to our family
December 26, 2011Lard, Raw Milk, and Organ Meat: a formula for optimal health?
December 19, 2011Livin' Lardge: rendering pork lard, for health
December 9, 2011Organic pastured pork is now in-stock... and it's soy-free
December 6, 2011Maple Sap as an alternative to bottled water
December 1, 2011Soil: the wealth of nations