When scanning the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Award winners, North Arm Farm founder Trish Sturdy knew the farm would have contributed to a number of winners.
What was surprising, however, is that the venture, which she founded with husband Jordan (the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA) in 1995, was itself honoured as producer of the year.
"I was totally shocked because I actually didn't know they had such an award. We actually follow the awards pretty closely because we deal with quite a few of those restaurants," she said. "It was awesome. We were thrilled with it."
Among the winners with which North Arm works are: Kissa Tanto (first for best new design and best pan-Asian); Au Comptoir (third for best French and best brunch); Royal Dinette, Farmer's Apprentice, and Hawksworth (first, second and honourable mention for best Pacific Northwest, respectively); The Acorn (first for best vegetarian/vegan); Savio Volpe (first for best new restaurant and second for best new design); and CinCin (first for best Italian and second for best upscale).
"We have an email list that (has) probably 60, 70, up to 80 different chefs in Whistler and Vancouver, so they can choose from what they like," Sturdy said. "They just email back and we put it together and deliver every Thursday."
Sturdy explained it's been hard work to help grow the client list by delivering quality produce each week, but it's gratifying to know that it's acknowledged and appreciated.
"It's just persistence. We are down there every week, every Thursday. We work on all the holidays. We have a huge list of deliveries every Thursday," she said. "We work hard at getting away early and getting to all those 23 stops. Imagine driving around downtown Vancouver and stopping 20 or 30 places, trying to get there before service.
"We're really good about trying to maintain our quality. We're working with stored vegetables at this time of year. It's a test to keep them looking awesome when they're not coming out of the fields fresh anymore," she said.
North Arm offers over 30 different vegetables from beets, carrots and potatoes to Chinese artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes and salsify.
In addition to delivering, North Arm also offers you-pick and tour opportunities so people can learn more about and connect with agriculture.
What Sturdy hopes the award does is continues to put the region in the spotlight, as the magazine's lauding of the farm puts an emphasis on its location.
Wrote the magazine: "...with its 60 acres, (North Arm) wasn't the first to take advantage of the fertile ground north of Whistler, but it was the first to trumpet the location and to throw open its doors so average urban diners on a day trip could really understand where their food was coming from (and maybe pick a few berries or pumpkins while they're there). These days, the entire Pemberton Valley has become sort of a mountain Provence, with distillers and winemakers and lots of farmers drawing crowds to the experience—all of which started with the Sturdy clan and the amazing dirt of North Arm Farm."
"It really puts Pemberton Valley in the spotlight. There are some very good producers in this valley and they might not all be as public as us, but I have bumped into fellow farmers from Pemberton down in the city as they're delivering as well," Sturdy said. "I hope it puts the focus on our valley up here and what an amazing agricultural valley we have and the great product that we're putting out here.
"If you think about it, look at how close Vancouver is to the Fraser Valley and how many farms are down there. It could even be a little fresher and they're a little closer, but for us, a little farm all the way up here, it's pretty good."
Sturdy hopes other farmers in the region open up their operations "even if it's just a couple days a week," to help further the momentum.
The magazine also honoured Whistler restaurants with their own category. Araxi, which has won all but one time since 2000, was tops again to best the Bearfoot Bistro and Toptable stable-mate Bar Oso, while Alta Bistro and Christine's on Blackcomb were honourable mentions.