Today’s blog comes to you courtesy of Lydia, our marketing manager. Two years ago she applied for the position as she was newly married and they had recently relocated from Ontario for her husband’s new job. In checking her references, her previous Ontario employer had only good things to say about her, and at the end of the call she said “hire this young woman, she is a person of exceptional character”, which sealed the deal for me. Even though she had no farming knowledge whatsoever and didn’t know Abbotsford, BC from Abbotsford, Australia, I knew we could teach her those things, but you can never teach someone to have exceptional character. As it turns out, she’s very good at marketing too!
Fast forward two years, and to say that Lydia’s learning curve has been steep is an understatement but I’m so thankful we found each other! I’m always delighted to teach her something new about farming, and so asked her if she would write her “Top Ten Things I’ve Learnt since moving to Abbotsford”. You already enjoy her lovely photography and excellent marketing talents, so please take the time to get to know the Lydia behind the lens!
Here are 10 things that I, Lydia, have learned working with the Lepps for the past 2 years.
1)Eating Seasonally Tastes Better. It had never occurred to me that fruits and vegetables taste so much better when you eat shortly after they’ve been picked – the same day if you can. I find myself planning my own meals around the seasons more and more since that’s a super simple way of making any dish taste better.
Above: A mid-summer haul from the Lepp’s fields
2) Every fruit and veggie begins it’s life as a flower. I know, I can practically hear you rolling your eyes at this, but as someone who grew up fairly far removed from farming, I’m always amazed to see the beautiful blooms in the fields become a cucumber, or a pepper, or a strawberry.
Above: a cucumber at Lepp Farms with a wilted flower on it’s end.
Above: Strawberries at Lepp Farms in every stage of life. The yellow centre in the flower will grow into the green fruit which turns pale pink and then red as it ripens.
Above: Bell peppers growing in a neighbouring greenhouse here in Abbotsford.
3) Honey comes in many varieties. Depending on what plants the bees were pollinating during honey production, honey can take on different flavours and depths of colour. Pumpkin honey is a deep amber colour, with a rich creamy flavour. Also, if you see “pumpkin honey” on a jar, or any other crop, it doesn’t mean that the honey has been infused with that flavour!
4) Every fruit and veggie has multiple varieties – the ones we are most familiar with are the varieties that can be picked early and store well to travel to their final destination without perishing. The food system that we as consumers have molded, although efficient, has not served good taste very well.
5) Most Chefs secret ingredient is just salt & pepper and something acidic, like lime or vinegar. Seriously. It’s that simple.
6) Farming is a high-risk monetary endeavor! You can do everything right for 8 weeks straight, but if you let your guard down for an afternoon you can lose everything. Or worse, weather can wipe out seeds and hours of work that you’ve paid for, and you have no control of that.
7) Kiwis are grown in Canada! Maybe you knew this, but a kiwi always struck me as a tropical flavour, because it pairs well with pineapple and mango. But it grows right here in Abbotsford in the fall, of all seasons (most farmers harvest them in December) and it’s actually the frost that sweetens them. Fun fact: you can eat their fuzzy skin, and it’s not nearly as gross as it may seem.
8) Turkeys. Remember that Thanksgiving craft for children? Where you make a turkey out of multi-coloured handprints? When I met my first real turkey I honestly thought I would have at least seen a resemblance, but not even close.
9) If a farmer falls behind on any daily tasks in a day they will not be able to catch up in that season! I learned about this while visiting the Lepp’s neighbour’s greenhouse last week as part of #BCGreenHouseVeggieDays. In order for the pepper plants to grow straight upwards around a cord, workers have to guide and twist the plant around the cord every couple of days. And there are hundreds of rows of hundreds of plants to do this to! Talk about tedious work. It’s quite labour intensive, and as I said, if they fall behind there’s just no catching up.
10) You can eat corn raw, and it tastes amazing. I love a grilled, buttery, salted cob of corn as much as the next person, but when you get sweet corn that’s been picked at it’s peak ripeness (like the Lepps do!) you can eat it raw without being disappointed in the least.
In addition to learning about farming, Lydia has also spent the past 2 years learning photography on-the-job while she captures content for our social media & newsletters. You may recognize one of her photos on the cover of this year’s BC Farm Fresh Guide!