On a warm summer afternoon, we met up with Josh, Ashley and Bonnie at the Field House farm in Greendale, Chilliwack. Inspired to use fresh ingredients in their food and beer, their farm team has been hard at work growing their own ingredients. The quarter acre of land was quite a sight to see. While we were there we had the pleasure of joining Bonnie, the Head Chef, as she harvested and we didn’t pass up the opportunity to sample the produce fresh out of the ground when we got the chance. Vegetables bursting with flavour, we can’t wait to taste a menu item from the Canteen next chance we get.
TFV: Who joined us for the shoot, and what are their roles at Field House?
Josh Vanderheide – Founder
Parker Reid – Brewhouse Director & Head Brewer
Bonnie Friesen – Food Program Director & Exec. Chef
Ashley Duret – Brand Director
Joshua McGurgan (aka ‘Shua’) – Operations Director
TFV: Where did the vision for Field House come from?
JV: The vision for FH is really just aligns with a vision for the community that we want to live in and truly believe we can make happen, if we work together. After growing up here most of my life, I was just tired of people complaining that there was ‘nothing to do in Abbotsford’ and watching people move away or even spend all their time in Vancouver, because Abby didn’t have the same experiences that you could find in these other places. So the vision was about bringing something to our community that stood for quality products as well as an experience that was authentic to who we are, but also aspirational and different, so that people might take notice that Abby has a lot to offer. We are in the process of realizing that vision, working with the other amazing up-and-coming local businesses and we are starting to see a real shift in what people do, what people eat and drink and how they are becoming proud of the community we are, which is pretty special. There is a bit of a ‘Renaissance’ in our community, a re-birth of who we are are — but also respecting and honouring our heritage of where we came from.
TFV: Could you explain a bit more about the genesis of the farm and what your biggest learning’s have been so far?
BF: We talk so much these days about the importance of eating local, supporting our farmers, farm to table, and as we started developing the menu around these concepts at Field House, we felt the need to connect deeper to these values by getting our hands in the dirt. Cooking truly starts in the soil, and when a number of local landowners approached us with their land (that had so much potential to me be maximized), we jumped at the chance. A lot of people have asked us WHY we’re farming — it’s definitely not to make money or even compete in the local market, it really is because we believe in the importance of it, of having more farmers being able to access land, of young chefs learning more about farming, of creating lasting sustainable futures for our farms connecting with our growing cities and communities in the valley, rather than being isolated on the outskirts. It’s been so much more work than we thought at every turn, and we’ve made every mistake imaginable. I think our biggest learning has been developing such deeper level of respect for our farmers and how hard they work- people like Dan at Local Harvest, Marina at Day 1 Urban Farm, Shane and Emma at Aslan Organics — farming is their livelihood and they depend on the community, farmers markets, and local restaurants committing to buying and cooking with what they grow each week. It’s a beautiful cycle, and we are committed to seeing it continue to succeed and thrive in the future of the valley.
TFV: What’s one thing you want the Field House customer to know?
JV: That we are just SO grateful for their support, we never take it for granted and are humbled by the groups of friends and families that come see us day after day, week after week. Without their support, we would not be here as a growing business in Abby — and that our team is working as hard as possible to take care of the amazing people that comes down to spend time with us. We know that we are not perfect and make mistakes all the time, but we are working really hard to take care of the nice folks in our community and learning as we go. We love being part of this community and are proud to be here.
TFV: What are some of the local Fraser Valley brands that you covet?
JV: Most of mine are food and beverage based: Old Hand for coffee, Whispering Horse for wine, Mark’s Bread for… well, bread, and the newest, Banter Ice Cream! Also, love Ryan McAllister’s new project Valley Music Co. as well as the Common Room Collective for what they are doing in the local music scene right now, so inspiring.
Once we finished gathering produce at the farm, we left to meet Brewmaster, Parker and Operations Director, Shua at the Vedder River. Bottle opener out, the five members of the Field House team each grabbed a beer and with our shoes in hand we proceeded towards the water. Trekking through the small streams and making log bridges when needed, we reached the Beach Cabana, a hut built from driftwood by the Wild Outdoors Club. The perfect hiding spot from the sun, we settled in and talked about the teams recent travels to Italy.
TFV: Bonnie, what’s your favourite or must-have ingredient to cook with?
BF: This time of year in peak summer, I love cooking with eggplant. There’s so many different varieties grown locally- I recently got some beautiful baby Japanese eggplants from Heartbreaker Acres at the Valley Food and Farm farmers market — it’s such a versatile fruit to cook with… Slow roasting with the skin on over coals to make Baba Ganoush; grilled and marinated with garlic and mint; or like Heartbreaker Acres suggested — charred and packed in olive oil to bring out during the winter.
TFV: Parker, what’s the coolest thing in developing beer that you’ve seen lately?
PR: Wine-Beer Hybrids. It’s something we are really trying to explore right now in a variety of ways. There are a lot of coinciding flavours in certain beer styles and paired with the right grapes, wine, barrels or even yeast, you end up with this really unique marriage of the two.
TFV: Shua, how do you get your team motivated?
JV: Shua is away right now in Australia (his homeland), so I will tackle this one. I think the motivation from our team comes from trying to create a place that people genuinely want to be, letting them be themselves and work with other great people. Happy crew = happy customers. Taking care of people is what we love to do and we believe more than a ‘fun place to work’, we need to invest time and resources developing and growing our people, so they will grow as people, whether they use those skills at Field House or somewhere else in their life or career, we want to make sure they leave FH having grown in some way.
TFV: Ashley, what are you most proud of in the brand that you’ve built?
AD: Our brand extends from our website and social media, to our packaging, to the flowers on the tables, to the faces at the till. The brand is really a team effort and that’s probably what I am most proud of that everyone at FH is invested and aware of our brand, in whatever area they work in. Seriously (and sometimes mockingly) I daily get the question… ”Ashley, is this ON BRAND?” We chuckle, and then we talk about if and how their idea could work!
TFV: Josh, what’s next?
JV: Oh, tough one — so many things! Lots of ideas are swirling around about where Field House goes next, we have some ideas that are in the works to continue to bring great food & beverage experiences to the Valley. We also have an expansion plan in the work at Field House to allow us to increase our production and expand our kitchen — that’s our first priority to give our team the working space they need to do what they do best, then onto the next big challenge. But there will be some news very soon — stay tuned.
TFV: Favorite watering hole?
JV: Field House …. Sorry. Hands down.
TFV: If you were a destination, where would you be?
JV: We just got back from Italy for a research trip for a new project we are working on, I think Tuscany region is what I would like us to work towards – a region that is centered around food culture and agriculture experiences, that would be my dream.
As we began to feel the heat of the late afternoon sun, we made our way from the Cabana into the river to cool down. After some splashing around, we headed back to the street to say our goodbyes and part ways. We left the Field House team feeling light heartened and inspired by their passion for farming, with dreams of expanding our own gardens. They have formed an amazing community and we can’t wait to see what they do next.