Meeting at The Local Harvest Market just off Lickman road, we joined Dan and Helen Oostenbrink, along with their five kids, for a day in their fields.
We started in the greenhouses amongst the tomatoes and as we made our way through the rest of the farm, our trip soon turned into an edible tour. We tasted cantaloups fresh from the soil, split figs straight off the tree and enjoyed washed carrots right after they were harvested by the family. At the end, we all gathered for hand-made pizza topped with Local Harvest veggies cooked in their wood fire oven.
TFV: You recently opened your new Local Harvest Market. How did you get to where you are today?
LH: We started selling produce from a roadside stand in 2013. It was an immediate hit and we quickly outgrew the space and moved into a re-modeled barn. Unfortunately, we didn’t obtain all the necessary permits from the City and were forced to build a brand new market. In the meantime, while waiting for approvals, we operated in a portable structure and from tents. It was a harrowing experience, but it’s made us stronger and taught us many things. But you’re asking, ‘how did we get to where we are today?’ Simply put, sheer determination, sweat—lots of it and a few tears.
TFV: Can you share your vision and passion about food security and educating the public?
LH: Our vision here at Local Harvest is a food-secure city where every citizen has access to locally produced foods that nourish. Food security issues have dominated the conversations on our farm and in light of the momentous vision we hope one day to realize, we recognize that we have only begun. But this only strengthens our resolve to do what we can on our 35 acre chunk of land here in this fertile valley. We love talking with people of all ages about food: how food is grown, regenerative agriculture, working with nature and not against it, gardening, pasture management and more. It appears that people are looking for change in how we view food and it’s refreshing to offer a new perspective in how we feed ourselves.
TFV: What is one thing that Local Harvest is not?
LH: We are not a supermarket. We don’t have strawberries in February and we don’t sell lemons from Florida. Things move slower here, too. We hope that’s okay.
TFV: What sustainability methods do you practice with your produce?
LH: All the food we grow on our farm is grown without synthetic fertilizers and sprays—not even organic sprays. We deal with pests by including as much biodiversity on our farm as possible: trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, flowers and animals. Our emphasis is on soil health. Healthy soils with tons of microbial life and an abundance of larger soil organisms allows us to grow healthy plants with strong immunity. Healthy plants in turn sustain healthy communities.
TFV: How do your harvest boxes work and what was the vision behind starting them?
LH: Our Harvest boxes work similar to your ordinary CSA boxes with an important distinction: you don’t need to commit to an entire season and can order a box whenever you like. Simply place your order for a box online and indicate if you’d like to pick it up or have it delivered on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You can cancel anytime. Advantages for the farmer? We’re able to add items to the box that are in season and in abundance and get our produce into the mouths of more people. Advantage for the consumer? We provide more produce at a lower price than if you purchased the same items in the market and, you can have it delivered to your doorstep.
TFV: Tell us a bit more about your wood-fired oven made pizza.
LH: The crusts are always the same (made from Anita’s Organic flour) but the toppings change with the seasons and produce availability. Our pizza’s truly offer you a taste of Local Harvest. We provide both a veggie pizza and a meat pizza using pork from our pasture raised pigs. And, anything in the wood-fired oven just tastes better! Right now pizza’s are only available on Saturday between 11 am and 2 pm but their popularity will force us to increase the time window in which they can be enjoyed.
TFV: When did you start farming?
LH: Or is it gardening? Farming sounds like work and we’re having fun. ☺ We began this adventure in 2013.
TFV: What is an ingredient from the farm that you use in recipes the most?
LH: Garlic is pretty much used in every meal. We mostly grow Russian garlic and eat it at all stages: dried, fresh and garlic scapes. Second to that, tomatoes. In our household heirloom cherry tomatoes are eaten fresh through the growing season, Aunt Ginny’s Purple makes an excellent salad tomato and Black Krim is a burger essential. In the winter we eat preserved tomatoes from our stocked pantry: soups, chilies, salsas and pastas.
TFV: What does family mean to you?
LH: Family means sharing. Sharing responsibilities, sharing time, sharing food, sharing tough times and sharing joys.
Bread or Pizza?
Sourdough bread for its perfect simplicity: water, flour and salt.
Tomatoes or Peppers?
Planting or Harvesting?
Alpacas or Piglets?
Piglets and crias (baby alpacas) are tied for cuteness. Alpacas are born with lovely, large eyes and long lashes. Piglets have pudgy snouts, upright ears and a tummy that demands to be tickled and scratched.
TFV: Can you name a few of the local eateries in the Fraser Valley that use your produce in their food or drink?
LH: Restaurant 62, Little Brother, Oldhand Coffee, The Habit Project, Field House Brewing, Morgan’s Bistro and Curly Kale Eatery are the companies we’re proud to work with. They’re all distinctive and special in their own way but they have one thing in common: a strong desire to provide their customers with food that tastes like the Valley, food that’s grown by people of the Valley and food that’s fresh and nourishing.
TFV: What is one thing you want people visiting the Fraser Valley to know about your home?
LH: Visitors to our town must know that while we have a long way to go in transforming the food scene of our town, good food and great experiences are to be had here. We don’t just grow food. We celebrate it with our own and with our visitors.
TFV: If you were a destination, where would you be?
LH: About 100 km East of Vancouver in the fields of Local Harvest near the row of cantaloupes just as they’re about to be harvested.
The perfect stop for a quick pop in after work or a trip with the kids for hand-made pizza on a Saturday. The Local Harvest Market offers a wide variety of nutrient rich, organic seasonal fruits and veggies, making it a must stop on your next grocery run.