Autumn in Canada is the time for pumpkins, corn mazes, hot cider, and giggles. In British Columbia, the place to connect with the season and the environment that helps it flourish is farm country. The Fraser Valley, with its proximity to Vancouver, has large farms that feature entertaining attractions, animal encounters, home-made food, and unique alcoholic drinks for adults to sample.
Maan Farms is among the leading destinations to satisfy the farm feelings. Its double pumpkin spice ice cream, which was launched in 2020, is the kind of treat that encourages return visits. The farm has an enchanted patch with white pumpkins and a corn maze where you can challenge yourself among the “haunted” stalks. Goats and bunnies are eager for your attention, and a playground near the animals is more fun for kids. When you get hungry the restaurant serves traditional favourites and flavours that connect with the Maan family’s Indian heritage.
“I think it separates us in the area and even in North America,” Gurleen Maan says of dishes like vegetable samosas and butter chicken rice bowls, which she prepares with her mother. “We add our own authentic flair. Even though we serve hot dogs and hamburgers, we are big believers in showing our own heritage and in diversity. We think it’s important that we share our true authentic cuisine.”
The Maan family also makes a range of wines sourced from fruits on the 100 acres of farmland. Employing the expertise of a consulting master winemaker from Europe, the Maans have produced wines that have been recognized among the best fruit wines in Canada.
“We’re berry farmers and it makes sense for us to offer something unique and different that can push the narrative when it comes to wine, and make you think of wine as being over and above just grapes,” says Gaurev Maan, the in-house winemaker.
He points out that making wines from fruits other than grapes also creates a more sustainable market for farmers. Maan says it costs approximately $5 a pound for fruits like blueberries and strawberries versus $20 a pound for vinifera grapes. The farm has recently launched a berry wine seltzer that comes in attractive 250-millilitre bottles that are made with real fruit and contain 7% alcohol each. The Maan Farms’ raspberry dessert wine, which has 17% alcohol per volume, was named the 2018 Fruit Wine of the Year at the All-Canadian Wine Championships.
It’s not the only fruit winemaker on the street. Three kilometres down the road is sprawling Taves Family Farms, which has a cidery and lots of seating capacity. It also offers apple picking, a hayride, kart rides, a retail store, and an eatery.
While the farms in Abbotsford provide a tangible sense of the land and the food it cultivates, the city’s downtown is the place to see how those products progress into communities. In 2020, Jade Geleynse launched The Daily Market. With pandemic restrictions easing, the operation, focused on local food with many products from well-known Lepp Farms, has recently expanded to a bakery with a deli and coffee service. A small exterior patio faces Railway Street while on the opposite side of the building Mount Baker dominates the landscape.
“People do really care about supporting local farmers and producers,” Geleynse says as she tours the large warehouse space and explains the conscientious choices she makes for stocking her shelves. “Life demands a lot for each and every one of us and to make it easy for our customers to express that they care and provide ways for them to show it at home and to their city is our promise to them.”
Across the street and farther west is Field House Brewing, a gem of a craft-beer house that serves pizzas with ingredients sourced from Lepp Farms and other local purveyors. Field House’s outdoor space is decked out with lawn chairs and patio lanterns that bring a touch of Canadiana to the experience.
The foodie scene is complemented with boutique shops along Montrose Avenue, including Yes Chef, a retail store filled with kitchen equipment and accessories. The store is attractive and well organized, making it pleasant to browse. Across the street is Spruce Collective, owned by two women from Abbotsford who promote products sourced primarily from British Columbia. Cookbooks and other kitchen items are among the selections.
Don’t miss a chance to have a coffee at Oldhand and pastries at Duff & Co., both of which would be stars in downtown Vancouver. They feature the sophisticated tastes and casual settings that have become popular in cities across North America.
“There’s been so much growth in downtown Abbotsford and it’s a reflection of the local government and the work that they do,” says The Daily Market’s Geleynse, who was raised in the area. “We’re seeing more and more collaborations among small businesses, and it’s good for all of us and for the community especially.”
Abbotsford’s success also underscores the old tourism axiom: If something is good for locals, it is sure to please visitors, too.