By LeRae Haynes —
The Cariboo Growers Market in Williams Lake is a source of community pride as well as high-quality, naturally-produced local food. Farmers, ranchers, and producers fill the market year round with local, healthy, responsibly-grown seasonal food: a one-stop shop for great taste and peace of mind.
“It feels great to show that we can provide year round food in this area,” said Lynda Archibald from Fraserbench Farms, who along with her husband Charlie Brous, provides the Grower’s Market with apple cider vinegar, dehydrated delicacies, berries, fruit, and much more.
“Even preserved, it’s still local. That’s how it all starts for me,” she said.“If I can grow it I’ll make the effort to making it to something we can use throughout the winter.”
On Fraserbench Farms, spring and summer delicacies like red and black currants, tart pie cherries, raspberries, plums, pears, and apples are creatively preserved for winter enjoyment. Things like squash, potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and onions go into winter storage to be used throughout the cold months.
“We do frozen berries and cherries, dehydrated apple slices, pear chips, and fruit applesauce-based leather made with Saskatoon berries or blueberries,” said Archibald. “With access to the Seniors Activity Centre’s improved, licensed kitchen I’m going to process things to sell at the Market likebread and butter and dill pickles, zesty red hamburger relish, pickled beets and carrots, raspberry jam and cherry jam, salsa, and dill beans. We take what we have a surplus of and process it.”
Another local source of winter delights at the Grower’s Market is Linger Longer Lodge, where Dan Mousseau and Jordan Evans raise pigs, chickens, and more. Linger Longer Lodge is a small farming outfit that has been in operation since 2012, sustaining a diverse agricultural ecosystem on over 25 acres of land.
Mousseau said when it comes down to eating healthy, natural, local food throughout the year, it’s all about eating habits.
“You have to eat with the seasons,” he explained. “Throughout the winter months our mainstays are meat, potato squash, and things that store throughout the winter; we’re also gearing toward fermenting some of the vegetables.”
This is more than a workshop; it’s an opportunity for growers and producers to get together and discuss what’s next and what we want to see for the future.”
He said they have a greenhouse to extend the growing season, as well as a diversity of animals, including pigs, goats, alpacas, llamas, horses, turkeys, chickens, and ducks. They strive for sustainable agricultural practices without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, or steroids.
They said their current contributions to the Growers Market for the winter are chicken and pork.
“I think that the way we produce the best chicken is having them on pasture after only two weeks—they’re outside all the time,” Mousseau said. “They get fresh grass every day, and they’re not sitting in bedding. We move the pens every day and the birds are always clean.
“Besides, they add nitrogen to our entire pasture: they’re multi-functional.”
People say Linger Longer Lodge chickens are incredibly flavourful and moist, said Evans, who adds the same is true with their pork.
“Our pigs are happy pigs: outside and foraging all the time,” she noted. “Our butcher says this is what a pork chop ought to look like and he ought to know!”
Evans and Mousseau have a one-year-old son, and said planning to raise a family makes you think about what makes the most sense when it comes to your food—what’s in it and where it comes from.
Fraserbench Farms’ Archibald said it’s really important to start looking at the next step. “More and more young people are starting to grow their own food, but what do we do with it? We need to get it into a format that we can distribute,” she explained. “I would love to see a big storage, distribution, and processing centre.”
One step in that direction is a workshop opportunity this winter, made possible by the Williams Lake Food Policy Council in partnership with the BC Ministry of Agriculture. The workshop, called Branching Out – Growing Into Our Future, is a strategic industry outreach initiative geared to bring local farmers and producers together, along with industry and businesses, to come up with a strategic plan focused on vegetables and fruit and related value-added producers.
“This is more than a workshop; it’s an opportunity for growers and producers to get together and discuss what’s next and what we want to see for the future,” said Archibald.“It’s a chance to come up with fresh new ideas.”
She added planning for the future is all about food security. “If something happens and our transportation is delayed or disrupted, it takes one day to have our distance food supplies affected,” she said.“I know we’re all used to buying exotic foods because they’re available, but we’re going to have to get better about enjoying those treats once in a while, but mostly eating what’s in season.”
A real benefit of our year-round market, according to Archibald, is that the average shopper knows who’s growing their food, where it comes from, and knows it’s top quality and hasn’t travelled far.
“They can meet the farmer if they want,” she said, “and know they’re supporting a growing number of local farmers who really rely on the local consumer.”
There are many wonderful products to choose from at the Grower’s Market when searching for that perfect gift for your loved ones this holiday season.
For more information about the Cariboo Growers Market phone (778) 412-2667.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community coordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band and instigator of lots of music with kids.