We hear a lot from people about wanting to eat local. This is the time of year when it is actually very easy to do. Many grocers are carrying more local product, there are over a dozen farmer’s markets in the region and then of course, if you can get there, farm gate sales. It is a time when you can see the bounty of the local food economy, its diversity and expanding availability. Did you know just how much diversity there really is on our Peninsula? The Flavour Trails North Saanich Food and Farm Festival is the perfect place to get a glimpse.
Finding its roots 10 years ago as a humble little community festival with goals of highlighting local flavour and supporting local agriculture, the North Saanich Food and Farm Festival (previously North Saanich Flavour Trail) has grown to be one of the most loved events of the summer. Having recently been nominated by the Peninsula News Review Reader’s Choice Award for the best farm event in the region, the festival will likely not stay small for long.
This year the festival takes place Aug. 18 to 20, and offers two special Farm to Table events in addition to the main, free, self-guided tour of food and farm treasures of the Peninsula. Expect to find behind the scenes farm tours, indigenous food tasting and talk by Tseycum elder Marilyn Olsen-Page, food samplings and cooking demonstrations, great music, educational talks from past and present, kids activities, see farm animals in action, and more. Learn how to grow pomegranates and limes in your own backyard, practice your sheep calling skills, watch a blacksmith forge, sample Douglas fir-tip infused vinegar, find out what exactly is eating your pear tree leaves, or eat a fresh blueberry crepe in the Garry oak meadow at Epicure.
The weekend starts off with the festival launch Farm-to-Table Celebration on Friday at the Fickle Fig, 1780 Mills Rd. It will be a gorgeous three-course organic dinner and evening of local music. Culinary delights will be prepared by Chef Mitchell Morse, known for delivering some of the best lip-smacking seasonal food in the region. Music by acclaimed local jazz favorite, Edie DaPonte will make for a great atmosphere of al fresco dining. Tickets are $55 in advance at www.flavourtrails.com. where you can also find downloadable tour maps and brochures.
The best place to start the free food and farm tour on Saturday morning is the North Saanich Farmers Market. A friend of mine who swears to have visited every farm market on Vancouver Island says this little local secret situated in the quaint orchard setting behind St. John’s United Church is one of his favourites. Spend the rest of the day taking in the sites and eating your way through the Peninsula. One thing tour organizers heard last year was people wanted more food on the tour and from the looks of the brochure the festival has things to eat and sample at many of the stops.
If you still have room left for more, on Sunday, the District of North Saanich invites you to celebrate Canada 150, with a Community Pancake and Crepe Breakfast from 9:30-11:30 in the meadow at Epicure at 10555 W. Saanich Rd. If you like pancakes and crepes loaded high with seasonal local berries and whip cream, then this is the event for you. Music, kids activities, and fun face painting will all be a part of it! Stay on to watch the ever popular sheep herding demonstration. The cost for breakfast is $8 for adults and $5 for kids and you can pay it forward as you eat good food. Proceeds go towards the GoodFood2025 initiative, working to increase the amount of local fresh foods grown to 25 per cent of our diet by 2025 and also reduce food insecurity in the Capital Region. Full details of GoodFood2025 and information about signing the Good Food Resolution can be found at www.crfair.ca.
Whatever your interest; from livestock, to learning about farm livelihoods to indigenous foods, and berries to biscotti, there is something for everyone. Take your family, ride your bike, bring your lawn chairs and come prepared to experience this rural ramble with all your senses. See you on the Flavour Trail.
Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at email@example.com.