|Vancouver Farmers Markets is about people who love fresh food at festive gatherings. With the initial goal in 1995 to create the fun and value of weekly Farmers Markets in urban settings, the Society and the Markets have become Vancouver plazas of fun, discovery, and connecting. Each month V.I.A. introduces you to one of the fabulous Market vendors!|
By Kim Peterson
Most people get a bit depressed this time of year at the never-ending grey skies, and sideways rain. We need a bit of juice. A bit of purple juice. The obvious answer here is beets. Not only are they insanely healthy, not only do they make a surprisingly delicious brownie, they also just happen to be the bumper crop of winter 2011.
“This year we had a ridiculous beet crop,” says Lydia Ryall, one half of the sister duo of Cropthorne Farm in Ladner.
Lydia and her sister Rachel are mainstays at both the summer and winter Farmers’ Markets.
The sisters established Cropthorne Farm with one acre in 2009, and this summer cultivated three acres with “almost everything”—over 40 varieties of vegetables and 100 chickens. Although their daylight hours have dwindled the past couple months, they’re still in the field tending to cabbage, parsnips, kale, carrots, potatoes and other root crops that don’t mind the chill.
Farming is in the family for the Ryall sisters, whose parents grew tomatoes at Gipaanda Greenhouses for 40 years, also in Ladner. They sold their farm this year, but the next generation is already involved in the family business as Rachel’s two young children often join her in the fields.
Cropthorne Farm is not certified organic or biodynamic, but they do follow organic standards. Lydia emphasizes that a label does not always tell the whole story, nor does it reflect the honesty and integrity that is so important between them and their customers.
“Organics in the grocery store that come from thousands of miles away is different than the local food movement. To me, the local and organic is a lot more organic than international and large scale organic culture,” says Lydia.
The Cropthorne ladies are already looking to expand and are on the hunt for a new piece of land to dig into this spring. Lydia admits it will be challenging to find a good piece of land.
“It's pretty important for me to be able to lease organic land," she says. “Soil
fertility and soil health is the foundation of what you grow.”
Cropthorne attends between three and four Vancouver Farmers’ Markets a week in the summer, and is at the Saturday winter market every week. Attending weekly markets give Lydia and Rachel a chance to get to know their customers, and talk shop with other producers.
"The sense of community is huge,” says Lydia. “It’s great talking to other vendors,
other farmers. During the work week you’re so busy in the field, you’re not interacting with other farmers."
Like many local producers, the Ryalls are already accepting applications for their summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Pay a bulk fee early in the year, and enjoy bins of fresh veggies and eggs through October. They might even organize a winter CSA for next year.
You can find Cropthorne, Lydia, Rachel and their beets every Saturday at the Winter Farmers’ Market in the Nat Bailey Stadium parking lot.