Ever since my first Circle Farm Tour in Harrison and Agassiz back in 2009 I’ve been hooked on these free, self-guided farmgate programs that can be found in Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows, Langley, Chilliwack, and Abbotsford as well. These tours introduce you to the great people who cultivate the bounty that grows in our region as they open their barn, shop, and studio doors to the public.
Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour Stops
Plan your route accordingly by following the suggested routes and maps that are provided online and in brochures that can be found at each Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour destination (14 in total). Tourism Abbotsford along with the Vancouver Coast & Mountain regional tourism authority invited a group of Vancouver media to do a tour last week and despite the drizzly weather, we had a great time at the following locations:
Taves Farm & The Applebarn
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This family-owned and operated farm is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year. They have 10-12 acres of pumpkins and about 18 acres of apples. Inside the warm, sweet air of the greenhouse we passed row upon row of peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and eggplants that were to be grown, picked, packed, and sent to local grocery stores.
Owner Loren Taves showed us around before we hopped a hayride over to the AppleBarn shop, which really gets hopping come fall (September 1st to December 20th) with cider sales and samples, a pumpkin patch, pony rides, corn maze, and more. They have U-Pick apples, pears, and plums, and inside the shop you can learn all there is to know about producing 100% pasteurized, 100% natural cider.
Almost year-round you can check out the self-serve produce stand on Gladwin Road and between May and mid-October you can pick up AppleBarn products from the Abbotsford Farmers Market. They’re known for their “Stuff A Bag” deal on peppers where you can fill a bag full of their crisp and sweet peppers for just $5 at the farmers market. Loren said that seeing the lengths people go to when they’re trying to fill their bag (for the great deal they offer) makes the transaction fun and interactive. While they spend so much time in the greenhouses and in the fields, it’s great to get out into the community.
Lepp Farm Market
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We walked into the Lepp Farm Market and were bathed in an aroma of smoked meats, herbs, and fresh produce that stacked the neatly-organized bins and deli cases. Owner Charlotte Lepp greeted us inside and took us on a tour of their market store and facility where where they do butchering, sausage-making, gourmet catering, and more.
When Charlotte and her husband Rob first started out, they sold their corn off the back of a trailer at the corner of their property on Clayburn Road and the Abbotsford-Mission Highway. “If it was heart and passion that made the plants grow, every farmer would be flourishing,” Charlotte told us about their struggles in the early days. Eventually, the trailer was turned into a corn shack, and the corn shack turned into the impressive market we see today. The operation is truly family-run with Charlotte and Rob’s son assisting with the butchering of their locally-grown, antibiotic-free meats.
Daily take-out counter with offerings like Lepp’s Sandwich Combos that come with paninis or deli sandwiches, soup or salad, cold drink or drip coffee. You can also get fresh roast chicken from the counter for lunch or dinner, and try their soup of the day, handmade savoury pastries, and more. Daily specials like “Gluten Aware Thursdays” are a big hit with locals.
Tanglebank Garden and Brambles Bistro
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Unfortunately due to the weather during our tour we didn’t get to do a tour of the Tanglebank Gardens, however we did pop into the garden shop and Brambles Bistro for lunch. The parking lot was packed and the bistro was busy serving up garden-fresh and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, dreamed up by owner Brenda Falk’s daughter Kayla who is the Executive Chef. ”
With the bistro we wanted to showcase the vegetables and produce that we grow,” Brenda told our group. The flavours are fresh and local, with ingredients grown “literally right outside our door.”
Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery
I absolutely love meeting with people who are so passionate about what they do that they almost burst at the seams when they try to explain everything to you, their love and dedication pouring out into the room with every word. That’s how it felt to meet Judy and Mike Campbell, the dynamic duo behind Campbell’s Gold Honey and Meadery. Again, due to the weather we didn’t walk out into the field to visit their hives so instead we stayed in their shop and learned all about bees and the delicious honey they produce.
Judy walked us through a “Bees 101” crash course complete with flash cards, like visitors to the store would experience. Mike soon arrived and provided even more fascinating information about the life of bees. “We take every chance to educate whoever comes in here, from two year olds to adults” said Judy. We learned about how all worker bees (and bees with stingers) are female and that the drones in the hive, who really don’t do much of anything, are all male. They also don’t have stingers so during some hive tours, visitors have the chance to get up-close with them.
“Drones are pretty cuddly,” Judy told me, convincingly, even though a sleepy drone startled me later on and I froze up sheepishly as though I was being held at gunpoint.
It’s safe to say that we totally geeked out on bee knowledge, and it was awesome. Did you know that plants like carrots and onions need pollination as well? That you can get buckwheat, squash, and lavender honey? Mike also made a fantastic suggestion of drizzling their Grand Marnier-infused honey on fresh strawberries for a sweet snack.
A great time to visit Campbell’s Gold would be when they host their 7th Annual Family Fun & Education Day on August 17th from 11:00am to 3:00pm. There will be tours and education about bees and honey, free pancakes from 11:00am to 1:00pm, draws and prizes, a walk to the “Five Hives”, and more family activities.
Mt Lehman Winery
Our final stop, before a multi-course dinner at Restaurant 62 that used many of the products we saw at farms that very day, was at Abbotsford’s own Mt Lehman Winery where we met owner Vern Siemens.
We had several tastings in the wine shop before a tour of the barrel room that overlooked a grassy pasture and part of their vineyard (where they grow 50% of their grapes) along the side of the property. For white wines, we sampled the 2012 Symmetry, (a five grape blend), a 2011 Chardonnay (unoaked), and a 2011 Viognier. The reds were a 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve (which we would also enjoy later at dinner) and a full-bodied Tempranillo which we would also sample straight from the barrel.
For my birthday a few years ago John took the day off work and we went on our own Circle Farm Tour in the valley. We picked up cheese, meats, produce, and wine all in a day — all within 90 minutes of our home. You can also eat local and eat right where these great products are grown at bistros and market cafes.
Whichever Circle Farm Tour you decide to try, although I recommend them all, be sure to plan for plenty of time at each location so you can browse all of the delicious farm-fresh options and meet these fantastic BC growers and producers.