On a sunny August afternoon we had the pleasure of catching up with the Lepp family of Abbotsford’s Lepp Farm Market, both in their store and their home. Catching them with some free time is no easy task, their market is a 24/7, 365 day commitment, one that they have been doing for over 11 years. What started as a corn stand in 1995 was transformed in 2009 into the Lepp Farm Market so many people know and love today.
A true family affair, the market was founded by Rob & Charlotte Lepp, and their sons Mike and Jason (who we caught in action!) are both heavily involved in the operations of the farm and the butcher shop, respectively. Charlotte and her son Jason gave us some insight into their life on the farm and in the store, and how they enjoy all that The Fraser Valley has to offer.
The Fraser Valley: Who joined us at the shoot, and what are their roles at Lepp Farm Market?
Lepp Farm Market: Rob & Charlotte Lepp, also known as The Farmer & The Foodie, are the founders of Lepp Farm Market. I mention Rob was at the shoot, only because we caught him in his truck and managed to snap a photo. During the summer he makes several trips per week bringing Okanagan fruits back from our orchards, so being able to catch up with him can be difficult. He won’t sit still now until November. We visited Charlotte in her backyard where she was preparing for our annual summer staff party, making Peach Sweet Tea. Jason showed us around the market, he’s Rob & Charlotte’s youngest son and manages the butcher shop in the market. Trisha, the newest addition to our in-house marketing team posed as a customer for the shoot. She actually started as a cashier years ago and then moved into marketing last summer.
TFV: What is the story behind Lepp Farm Market and how it came to be? What have been the biggest changes over the years?
Charlotte Lepp: Coincidentally, both our (Rob & Charlotte’s) families arrived in Abbotsford in 1948 and began farming, so our community roots go deep! Rob joined his dad on their hog farm after graduation and we are grateful to have been able to raise our three children on the farm. We began selling sweet corn on the market corner about 25 years ago and realized we loved being the connection between the farmer and the public, and that’s when the dream of opening a year-round market started.
The most significant change over the years is more of a constant, if that makes sense. Food fads come and go, but the demand for locally grown food only continues to increase, heightened even more by Covid and the growing awareness of our food security. We continue to focus on staying up to date with food trends, and currently, this centers on people cooking at home more and canning and preserving.
TFV: Can you share your vision for the future of Lepp Farm Market?
CL: After ten years of operation, our management team finally settled on our purpose statement, and we love its simplicity. Best place to work, best place to shop. That means that we focus first on our team and creating a winning culture. A pleasant shopping experience brings people back to the market, and if our team is happy, then our guests are happy! We are so thankful that our team chooses to work with us, so we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make their working hours pleasant.
Best Place to Shop challenges us to continually think of creative ways to enhance our guests’ shopping experience. That means things like making sure our guests feel welcome, ensuring the market is clean, engaging with people, especially about what they’re cooking, and having butchers available to help them source just the right cut of meat for their special dinner.
TFV: What is the best part about working with family? The hardest?
CL: Well, that’s a loaded question! The best part is that we get to see each other daily, which is only a perk if you really like each other, which we do. It’s been so enriching to watch our two sons, Mike on the farm and Jason in the market, grow in their strengths as leaders over the last eleven years. We know that the future of LFM is in great hands!
As well, we have team members who have become like family to us, and we feel so privileged to work with them.
The biggest challenge is maintaining a healthy balance between work and family time. As each of our family is involved in the business somehow, we could easily get lost in talking business every time we’re together and it’s hard to transition out of work mode. We are getting better at turning off work talk and just enjoying our time together. We’ve added eight little grandchildren to the mix, and they make it hard to have work-focused conversations, which is a good thing!
TFV: What are you most proud of in relation to Lepp Farm Market?
CL: I’m most proud of the amazing people we get to work together with each day and for the positive work environment we’ve built for them. We couldn’t do any of this without a large team of people, and we are so thankful for their dedication. On a personal note, nothing brings me more joy than hearing from a guest that they are loving a new product or are enjoying cooking a new recipe that we’ve shared with them.
TFV: Enough about work, tell us some of your favourite local spots in Abbotsford!
CL: East Abbotsford as I walk so many of the paths and trails with my dear friend. The sour cherry danish at Duft and Co. is my weakness as is the Oreo cookie at Old Hand. Restaurant62, Yes Chef, and Tanglebank (I love to garden). I love a good burger, and so BRGR BRGR, is a new favorite place. Bow and Stern make delicious fish and chips!
TFV: What is your favourite Summer food or recipe and why?
Jason Lepp: Grilled corn elote has to be one of the recipes I look forward to the most as the summer season approaches. Something about all the fresh ingredients and having no shame digging into a very messy corn on the cob feels like summer. Check out Half Baked Harvest grilled corn for the recipe.
CL: A warm fruit crisp or pie, topped with lots of buttery crumbs and melty ice cream! Peach and blackberry are my ideal combination. One of my favourite dishes to cook for people in late summer is the Corn and Tomato Galette found on our website. It’s always a huge hit.
Also, I’ve started making simple syrups with the local fruits and Rob, and we enjoy using them in a whisky smash or margarita. Cherry, Apricot and Plum are so good! I genuinely enjoy making preserves, and nothing satisfies me more than hearing the ping of lids sealing on the jars of all the different things I’ve cooked!
TFV: Yum, that all sounds amazing! Could you tell us a bit more about your life outside of the store?
CL: So much of my life revolves around food. I’ve always loved to cook, and the majority of my role in the market is to source new products and finding ways for people to use all the produce and meat we grow and sell. So I’m always looking at food blogs, reading cookbooks and experimenting with new recipes. We love to entertain people, and frequently we’ll invite guests over to try out the new dishes. We’ve got lots of little grandbabies now, so I help out there when I’m able. If I have any spare time, I enjoy reading and doing the NYT crossword puzzles.
TFV: What are you most proud of outside of the store?
CL: Without a doubt, our family! I realize what a gift it is that we genuinely love each other’s company. We’ve always been a loud and boisterous family, and it’s only getting noisier and more chaotic with all the little grandchildren.
TFV: What advice do you have for people who are just starting to get into cooking?
CL: It’s much easier than you think. So many great food bloggers are now doing IG videos, so find one that you like, follow them and just go for it. The information and the cooking help available at our fingertips will instantly answer just about any cooking question you may have. Never apologize that it didn’t turn out the way you intended! If it’s burnt, it’s merely “charred,” and if it’s undercooked, it’s “of medium doneness”! Just pretend it’s perfect. If enjoying a meal together with loved ones means getting take-out greek ribs, and you just make a fresh salad to accompany it, don’t feel guilty. People will appreciate and remember your gesture of sharing a meal with them long after they remember what you cooked.
TFV: We love that advice! How would you describe your perfect day in The Fraser Valley?
JL: In the summer: Fresh cup of coffee and a pastry from one of our great coffee shops, grab some delicious picnic ingredients (fresh fruit, salad, some local meats and cheeses, some Fieldhouse Brewing Pale Ale) and head down to the river or to one of the amazing lakes that surround us and hang out with the kids on the beach and go swimming. Maybe swing by Banter Ice Cream on the way home, put the kids to bed and enjoy a beautiful evening under the stars on my patio. 100% perfect day.
In the winter: Warm up with a nice cup of coffee and breakfast sandwich at Oldhand, maybe throw in a pastry while I’m there. If my 3 little girls are with me it’s now a game of keeping busy so it might include a trip to the park if it’s nice out. Grab a grilled cheese and soup of the day at a local cafe or in the kitchen at home and prep the most delicious pot roast dinner possible. Pair that with some great company and a knockout BC red wine and you got yourself a warm belly and a great evening.
TFV: Those both sound fantastic. What is your favourite part about being a local business within The Fraser Valley?
JL: We’re in farming and food so I’d have to say the abundance of what we can grow here is next to none. I love to eat and I don’t know of a better place to eat great food than the Fraser Valley. We have access to some of the best food, chefs and artisans and it’s so awesome to see more and more of them popping up. I also have loved getting to know our business community. It’s a very strong group of people who care so much about our city which is inspiring and just so much fun.
TFV: What are some of your favourite “hidden gems” in The Fraser Valley?
JL: I just discovered Little Saigon Banh Mi sandwiches in Downtown Abby and I’m in LOVE with it. The Polly Fox Banana Bread is another one of my personal favorites. We have a really strong local music scene that’s been disrupted this year but whenever you can catch a live show at Fieldhouse Brewing Co. or Jam in Jubilee I would recommend it. Grab a panini or other Italian treats at Hotties Food Emporio and head up to Hayward Lake or one of the many beautiful lakes up behind Mission. Go for a drive through Sumas Prairie in summer and take in all the beautiful fields full of different plants and veggies. Yarrow Farm Market on Friday nights is really fun. Stop for some ice cream across the road after. There’s a huge playground for kids as well.
You can find Lepp Farm Market at 33955 Clayburn Road in Abbotsford.