Have you ever wondered where your food comes from or how it’s produced? How does that pork roast get on your plate? Who raises the pigs? What kind of life do they have? Living in the city, it’s not commonplace to see farm animals grazing through grassy fields, but drive out into the Fraser Valley and the scene becomes a bit different.
This past week I had the privilege of visiting the Shaw Family Farm in Aldergrove and being a part of an amazing Farm to Table experience. The event encompassed two parts; a tour of the farm, followed by a feast focused on products raised at the farm. Attended by notable, local chefs, meat purveyors, foodies and media, it was an event that truly captured and celebrated the idea of local and sustainable food.
The host of the event was Hills Foods. Located in Coquitlam, Hills Foods is a supplier of wild game meats, organic meats and specialty products. Sourcing products that meet their ethical standards, Hills Foods provides the opportunity to be a bit adventurous in your appetite, while still be environmentally conscious.
Set on 28 acres, the Shaw farm, run by father, Jamie and his daughter, Brooklyn, raises free range heritage breed pork, wild Russian boar and a herd of sheep.
In small groups, the Shaw’s led us around the farm teaching us about the animals and answering any questions we had. The Shaw’s are unique in that they focus on raising their animals with as much regard to lifestyle as to production. This is in contrast to typical large farm operations, where sadly, the welfare of the animals is often an afterthought.
I was delighted to see the pig pens, where the mothers (sows) and babies (piglets) reside after birth. Babies happily snuggled up next to their mothers until they were strong and healthy enough to leave the maternity pens and join the older piglets in the outdoor enclosures.
I also thought it was interesting to learn about the maternal instincts of the boars. Certainly less domesticated than the pigs, the boars natural instinct when they are about to give birth is to create a burrow, in which to have her babies. After a few weeks of nurturing her young piglets in the burrow, the mother will re-emerge, piglets in tow. To encourage this instinct, the Shaw’s provide the boars with hay bales which the mother uses to create her burrow.
These examples of nurturing the animals natural instincts and creating a happy life for them, are what set the Shaw’s in a special class of farmers trying to raise animals sustainably and ethically.
After some time walking around the farm, the guests were all treated to an incredible feast featuring the products available through the farm. With views of lamb grazing in the field and a long table dressed in harvest colours, we were treated to a feast featuring barbecued wild boar, roast leg of lamb and fire roasted pork. The incredible meal was prepared by members of Culinary Team Canada with the help of culinary students from Vancouver Community College. The event stayed true to it’s local theme, with wine and craft beer provided by Chaberton Estate Winery and Parallel 49 Brewery.
Long time supporters of young aspiring chefs and Canadian Culinary Teams, the hosts, Hills Foods, concluded the event with a $5000 donation to the Culinary Arts Foundation of BC.
As an avid foodie and a proponent of local, sustainable and ethically raised meat, this was an experience I won’t soon forget.