(Abbotsford, BC) Credited as a city of momentum, Abbotsford has approached its tipping point, and the latest endeavour is the Valley Food and Farm Collective (VFF), which launches on Thursday, July 26th. Spearheaded by Josh Vanderheide, Owner of Field House Brewing, and Bonnie Friesen, Executive Chef and Head of Food Services at Field House Brewing, the VFF’s vision is to use food to transform the local community and to position the Valley as a global food destination. It is a call-to-action by local food producers and restaurants to establish a more meaningful food culture where local farmers, artisans, and chefs are deemed as the change-makers, endeavouring to create a culture of teaching, and bridging the gap between what is farmed and crafted with the food that is cooked and shared.
Vanderheide started Field House Brewing with the belief that craft beer is about more than cold brews. It is about the warmth of a community, which is what led him to create an authentic experience. Abbotsford is the largest agricultural hub in Canada, and Field House honours Abbotsford’s agricultural history by bringing it back to a simpler time, where farm workers could come back to the ‘field house’ for a beer.
Friesen, who joined forces with Vanderheide in 2017, believes that food is a universal language that connects everyone. “This is what struck me and changed the course of my life when I had the opportunity to travel. Countries with the smallest footprint were so diverse in what they ate, how they spoke, and the manner in which they ate together; yet, the common connection was the deep-rooted heritage of growing, cooking, and sharing food. ‘Breaking bread’ breaks down barriers, makes us human, and creates connection.”
“The challenges that led to the creation of VFF were a lack of defined food culture in the Valley, limited access to local food, and minimal ‘buy local’ incentives. Now, the food grown in the Valley, from the boutique farmer to the large-scale producer, can stay in the Valley, creating greater accessibility for everyone.
“We have the food and the people who want it, but we need to create the connection point and actually bring it from the farm and into our city,” says Vanderheide.
Several like-minded businesses have joined the Field House duo and are committed to sourcing locally and embrace the belief of collaboration over competition. By banding together, and focusing on micro and macro solutions, they are creating change quickly.
“Embedded in Abbotsford’s DNA is its magnificent surrounding landscape and agriculture. In tandem, they help to shape the experiences of locals and visitors alike. We are so proud of Abbotsford’s rich agricultural history. With a renewed desire from visitors to engage and reconnect with the land, we are excited to see the collaboration and energy amongst new and experienced agri-tourism partners as they create experiential offerings. Abbotsford has a revitalized energy, and we welcome everyone to experience it through our growing food culture,” states Craig Nichols, Executive Director of Tourism Abbotsford.
The VFF will encompass the Valley’s communal spirit and include food trucks, live music, and an educational component. The 9,000 square foot building, located at 2518 West Railway St in the Historic Downtown’s Rail District, will host an evening market every Thursday between 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The completion of Phase 1 includes:
- weekly farmer’s markets
- community offices
- creative community space
- partnership with Valley Food Market (VFM Direct)
- Valley Food Farm Membership Model
To begin in November of 2018, Phase 2 includes:
- commissary kitchen
- communal brewhouse
- local food café
- community rental space
- music venue
Other initiatives include local food certification (creating standards for what local food means to the Valley) and re-defining the local chef culture to teach and inspire a new generation of chefs.
The VFF is governed by a representative Board of Advisors, Board of Directors consisting of community leaders, and is managed by Executive Director, Kathleen Robinson. Robinson’s background is in environment and resources studies, which includes food security, sustainable food models and, specifically, re-localization of food economies.
“On June 14, a Market Preview Night was held. The evening provided a “taste” of the VFF’s long-term vision and a glimpse into the Collective’s goals. The event was a success with over 500 community members and dignitaries in attendance. We feel the community is ready for this! We’ve seen a number of Food Hub projects popping up in communities of the same size, yet without the agricultural capacity that we have in the Fraser Valley. We have the food and community support behind us. There’s no reason it can’t happen here!” says Robinson.