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Farm food is flourishing in Richmond

Miles Smart at Cherry Lane Farm. -
Miles Smart at Cherry Lane Farm.
— image credit:

Deep in the heart of South Richmond, where pavement meets a dirt road, is a big green barn. Here is where locals go to, well, go local.

There’s a growing movement toward eating local food in B.C. Its healthy and better for the environment. Eating local also helps support B.C. farmers and producers while boosting the local economy.

In Richmond, there’s plenty of fresh produce available, as the bounty from local crops continues to emerge from farm fields.

One place to look is the big green barn of J.S. Nature Farm at 11500 McKenzie Rd.

The family farm has been growing fruits and vegetables since 1970, offering customers some of the freshest produce around. Including its famous German yellow potatoes—the best spuds on the planet, according to owner Susan Buerger.

“It’s a very good tasting potato and it never falls apart on you. There is a difference in the taste,” she said. “Just cook them up. You don’t even need butter, but with a little bit of butter and garlic, you’ve got a meal.”

Customers will also find plenty of other seasonable vegetables at the farm stand, along with local apples and honey.

Nearly 39 per cent of Richmond is protected in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and its crops are diverse. Cranberries are king, and fields of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are also aplenty.

In East Richmond, another longtime family farm, W&A Farms at 17771 Westminster Hwy., takes great pride in its local produce.

“I’ve been a firm believer in quality and flavour,” says grower Bill Zylmans. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a strawberry, a blueberry, a raspberry, a potato or a bean. If it hasn’t got flavour, then what are we doing. That’s been one of our highest selling features in our June-bearing strawberry, that’s been able to basically keep us in business. No one can compete with us as far as flavour is concerned.”

Many locals flocked to the farm’s roadside stand for boxes and flats of the red fruit, whose season is now over.

The end of strawberry season brings the start of another. Nearby, at Blundell and Sidaway roads, Canwest Farms is in full blueberry production.

“As of right now, the volume looks promising,” says Humraj Kallu, operations manager at the farm.

CanWest sells to numerous markets, including Japan, and direct to customers at its East Richmond farm.

The blueberry harvest will continue through the summer months, according to Kallu, who said the berries are the biggest he’s seen in recent years.

Other berries that still can be had in Richmond include raspberries and one of the city’s lesser-known varieties: tayberries. For 23 years, Shell Road Farm owners Betty and Ben Baerg have been growing the sweet crops in South Richmond.  While the season is over, frozen ones are available.

“We are getting more and more customers every year. Once they try it, they’re a repeat customer,” says Betty Baerg of the deep red tayberry that’s a cross between a blackberry and raspberry. “It makes a very nice pie.”

Other fruits and vegetables—from asparagus to zucchini—are also found in many fields. At Cherry Lane Farm in North Richmond, 9571 Beckwith Rd., Miles Smart is busy tending to a wide variety of produce, including the farm’s namesake—cherries. You might find kale, chard, beets, red lettuce and potatoes and garlic at this local agriculture institution, which has its roots in the early ‘50s.

Farming is an important part of Richmond’s history. Early settlers were drawn to the fertile soils of Lulu and Sea islands. Today, Richmond is emerging as an urban centre. But the city hasn’t forgotten it’s agricultural roots.

Richmond’s mayor is keen to see agricultural lands protected. Evidence of that lies on the Garden City lands.

After much debate, the city bought the disputed City Centre land to protect its agricultural identity. A master plan was recently approved for the 55-hectare site—a plan that will see the land available to local citizens with trails and open spaces, while also promising urban agriculture and farming uses.

“We had a rare opportunity to plan the future of a large and unique area of undeveloped land right in the heart of the city,” says Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “We’ve achieved our goals of returning it to the public realm for our entire community to use and enjoy, preserving it as open space and an environmental asset and honouring our agricultural heritage.”

Approximately 3,072 of Richmond’s 4,993 hectares of Agricultural Land Reserve property is under production, according to city statistics. The most dominant crop—cranberries—covers 858 hectares.

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