By Ashley Lockyer
Take a gourmet stroll off the beaten path, spend the afternoon with top chefs, and leave filled with stories of food and the people that bring it to life. Local culinary celebrations don’t get bigger than the annual Feast of Fields festival, held this year at Laurica Farm and Fraser Common Farm in Langley. Once you wander through the gates (and past some goats and pigs), British Columbia’s food and beverage artisans await to offer a complete taste of the region.
Guests meander between tents and sample dishes that highlight local produce, prepared by more than 50 restaurants, farmers, and beverage crafters. Live music, orchards, and the open sky provide ambiance. Whether you’re into craft beers, ciders, or wines, or are looking for a chance to experience the province’s culinary creativity this “wandering gourmet harvest festival” includes items you won’t find on restaurant menus.
And, it’s not just the food that will leave you feeling good. The event is a fundraiser for FarmFolk CityFolk. Every dollar raised supports their mission: to cultivate sustainable food systems in British Columbia and build a market for local produce through celebration.
“It gives you the local flavour, people say, ‘wow, so that’s what it’s really like here. This is what fish from the Fraser River taste like, this is what grapes from local vines create, that’s what food by BCs top restaurants is like.’ And it’s all in one place,” said Nicholas Scapillati, executive director of FarmFolk CityFolk.
Ever try bacon jam? Cornbread made with honey from bees buzzing nearby? How about a glass of Syrah wine produced on BCs Black Sage Bench (a small interior region known for its reds)? Every dish connects you with the full flavour of the people and places that crafted it.
Vancouver’s Forage restaurant is a natural participant. Their chef is a fisherman, forager, hunter, and even keeps bees. They minimize food waste by using every part of the produce served, including repurposing gnocchi peelings to make potato skins. Like Feast of Fields, the restaurant has experts on staff to answer locavore questions, from sourcing organic vegetables to the environmental impacts of mono-cropping and multi-cropping.
“It’s an event where people get to be curious and ask questions about their food. They bring back stories about where it came from and who made it,” said Margot Baloro, restaurant operations manager at Forage. “People who come are keen, they want to learn as much as they can. It’s fun and it’s different and it feels good to do good.”
Where can you find more local produce? What can you cook with seasonal vegetables or pasteurized meats? Guests get answers to their farming and cooking questions right from the source. Chefs, beverage crafters, and farmers are on hand to personally field them.
“Farmers know best. I ask them what they have, what they need me to use. I don’t dictate. For the event, Laurica Farm had some pigs’ heads so I wood-fired them and made tacos,” said chef Adrian Beaty, a participating chef. “I kind of go with the flow. I was just at a farmer’s market and found someone nearby growing (hot) peppers that I’m using in the BBQ sauce. Normally, they are brought in from China or abroad. I was like ‘Whoa! You have this here, great!’”
Beaty first saw that there was so much more to food while watching a cooking show years ago. It featured a chef talking to a farmer about growing and using peppers. There was a clear connection between people, land, and nutrition. Since then, he’s educated others on how to find and cook with produce that’s available locally. His most recent find: a nearby farm that grows spinach, kale and other greens all winter long.
Before the 100 Mile Diet, before farmer’s markets were popular, there was Feast of Fields. Envisioned as a “roving picnic on a working farm” the festival is thriving today. It celebrated 22 years and 50 feasts this year and has attracted hundreds of locavores and culinary curious guests to the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, and to Vancouver Island.
You’ll leave the festival with fresh ideas for restaurants to try and knowledge about the bounty available in BC. Bring your appetite for learning and a straw hat next year and drop by a Feast of Fields event.
Meet FarmFolk CityFolk and Feast of Fields:
Feast of Fields is a four hour wandering gourmet harvest festival that highlights the connections between farmers and chefs, field and table, and between farm folks and city folks. With a wine glass and linen napkin in hand, guests stroll across a farmer’s field, traveling from tent to tent (sometimes through the barn, past the tractor or around the chicken coup) listening to live music, and tasting gourmet creations from BC top chefs, farmers, fishers, ranchers, food artisans, vintners, brewers, distillers and other beverage producers.
Meet Laurica Farm:
Laurica Farm is a five acre family farm in Aldergrove, BC. “We started our farm in 2013 after feeling disenchanted with the food industry – we wanted to stage a personal food revolution. Since then we have built a ‘farm family’ around us, gathering people who share our values. From foodies, to nutritionists, to locavores, to ethical shoppers, our customers have a shared vision about what their food choices should look (and taste) like.”
Meet Fraser Common Farm:
Through a unique balance of food production, habitat conservation, communal and individual housing, and a sincere desire for long term sustainability – this is a social and community experiment, a work in progress, and a dream come true. “The food tastes really great. We grow certified organic food, including pre-cut salads, vegetables, culinary herbs, edible flowers, fruit and market vegetables. We care about the food we grow, and the land upon which we live.”