Now that the snow is almost gone, and summer is just around the corner, I find myself staring anxiously into the chasm of my crisper. I’ve grown so tired of the generic Roma tomatoes, wilted green leaf lettuce, slightly pale green peppers, and bags of white mushrooms that have called my refrigerator home this winter.
Fortunately, along with the spring and summer sunshine comes local produce, especially when you’re lucky enough to live half an hour away from a rich agricultural centre like Pemberton.
Farmers are currently in the midst of planting season, and many are still selling the remainder of last year’s crops. But in a matter of weeks we should start to see vibrant fruits and veggies springing up in fields to the north of Whistler, some of which will migrate down the highway to line the shelves of our local grocery stores’ produce section.
While it’s still a bit early just yet to get the real goods, as cold and damp weather has led to a slow spring season, farmers are just starting to see things like leaf lettuce and asparagus emerge. Goodies like tomatoes, berries, and more are still to come, probably at the end of June and early July.
Some of the earlier crops will be available at the Pemberton and Whistler farmers’ markets, which start up on the weekends in early June.
But if you’re looking for the real deal, you really should go straight to the source.
That’s right, instead of spending the whole day lounging at the lake, lace up your sneakers and head up to North Arm Farm in Pemberton.
North Arm Farm is owned and operated by Pemberton’s mayor, Jordan Sturdy. They have a comprehensive website, which features a chart of their vast array of seasonal fruits, veggies, honey and preserves that are available from month to month.
While Pemberton is well known for its potatoes, the valley is certainly not all about spuds — at Sturdy’s farm, potatoes account for only about 10 per cent of business, and they grow everything from asparagus to zucchini, trying to provide seasonal produce throughout the year.
There’s also a big welcome sign at the front gate, and that isn’t just for show.
“I also would like to encourage people that when they do come to the farm, be a little adventurous and actually walk outside the barn!” Sturdy said with a laugh, adding that people are usually apprehensive to venture out into the fields.
But they shouldn’t be; Sturdy is actually in the process of developing a self-guided farm tour so people coming to pick up fresh produce from the farm this summer can get their hands a bit dirty, and get a real sense of where their food comes from.
“Fundamentally, there’s only a few different things that are critical to human survival, and food is one of them,” said Sturdy, pointing out that there is a huge gap in the average person’s understanding of the origin and importance of what’s on their dinner plate.
There are lots of reasons to eat local — it’s generally fresher and it can be a bit cheaper. But most importantly, perhaps, when you buy that head of lettuce from a farm in the Sea to Sky region, you’re putting money back into the pockets of local farmers.
“Food production is a challenging thing,” said Sturdy. “If nothing else, I fully expect my fuel bill to go up another 50 per cent this year, and it’s already doubled in the past two years.”
He points out that while food prices may seem slightly higher than usual, in most cases, the real cost increase hasn’t been passed on to the customer, and it’s actually the farmer bearing the brunt.
So the next time your crisper is crying out for something fresh, new and exciting, don’t skimp — treat your taste buds and show some love to your local farmer.