By Brian Lawrence
With thousands of hectares of rich farmland in the Creston Valley, it won’t come as a surprise that summer is a time when the Outdoor Creston Valley Farmers’ Market becomes the place to be on Saturday mornings. If you plan to spend a half-hour, it’s a safe bet your actual time spent there will be double (or likely more) as you run into, well, pretty much everyone you know.
It’s more than just a hangout, though, and provides a vital link between farmers, food and customers.
“It’s an incredible place for people to meet and gather around what the community does, and celebrate who we have in community,” says Jenn Cornish, executive director of the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition (CVFAC), which runs the market. “We’re often so disconnected from where food comes from and the labour that goes into it. It's super important that people have that connection.” And the Summer Outdoor Farmers Market is just the place where those connections are made!
From the third week of May to mid-October the Outdoor Market is usually located just behind the Creston Valley Visitor Centre at 121 Northwest Boulevard. For 2022, though, the outdoor market has temporarily re-located next to Millennium Park (215 16th Avenue South) while the Town of Creston redevelops the usual location into Market Park — a new downtown park custom built to support the outdoor market - from covered vendor stalls to paved walking trails, washrooms, landscaping and more. This project has been several years in planning, and will make both an amazing addition to downtown and to the local food scene!
Jenn, a chef who formerly ran a restaurant in Langley, joined the CVFAC in 2021 and is excited about the community’s support for the market, which started in 2004 in a small parking lot behind the Creston Community Garden. It’s now grown to have over 40 vendors each week, and offers cooking demonstrations and live music to customers, peaking at well over 1,000 customers on the busiest weeks!
On the Stand
Apart from the Farmers' Market the roadside fruit stands in Erickson have long been a popular draw for locals and visitors alike. With seasonal fruits and veggies, eggs, juice, baking and much more, Creston Fruit Market, Marar Orchards, Faraman Farm, & Wloka Farms Fruit Stand are easy to spot driving a loop through Erickson on Highway 3 and back along Erickson Road.
Just outside of Creston in Wynndel, Sutcliffe Farms is B.C.’s largest asparagus producer, and is a hive of activity in the late spring as workers pick the crop. You can’t miss them—they lie down on the job, plucking fresh asparagus at they’re pulled behind a tractor! The Farm also has a farm store that is open during their picking season for those interested in buying directly from the source!
Hands-on experiences are plentiful too, with raspberries & blueberries, cherries, and even saskatoon berries ready and waiting for you to pick!
in late July & August eager pickers can pluck cherries and raspberries at Flamenco Farms in Erickson, while the Blueberry Patch Farm in Lister offers (you guessed it!) u-pick blueberries. At Blue Canoe Orchards in Erickson You can also pick your own cherries or even do the“rent-a-tree” option, which guarantees you your very own cherry tree harvest year over year!
Finally, the Duck Lake Saskatoon Berry Farm might change the way you think about saskatoons — the cultivated berries are much more juicy and flavourful than the ones you typically find in the wild. (At least, the ones I’ve found in the wild...)
Meat Eaters, Rejoice!
Looking for more than fruits and veggies? You’re covered on that count! in Wynndel Root & Vine Acres raises Berkshire and Mangalitza pork, and specializes in sausages and charcuterie, while Kootenay River Beef comes from pasture-fed herds raised in West Creston. Last but not least, Famous Fritz Meats and Deli is a European-style butcher that makes its own sausages, hams and bacon — and it’s amazing bacon, I might add!
Milk and Honey
Kootenay Meadows' cheeses and milks are popular both in and far beyond the Creston Valley for good reason! So while in the area be sure to stop by their Lister cheese shop for a sample or do a tour and meet the very happy cows behind your favourite dairy products!
The bees are also busy — overseen by their keepers, of course. Pure Honey, based in West Creston, offers honey and other beeswax products. And while raw honey has been a staple since Swan Valley Honey was founded, its current owners have also branched out into flavoured creamed honeys, including lavender, maple, cinnamon and even chocolate!
Booze and Brews
The Creston Valley is truly a wine lovers destination, with four wineries — Skimmerhorn Estate Winery, Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery, Red Bird Estate Winery and Wynnwood Cellars — plus Wynndel Craft Distilleries (owned by the saskatoon farm folks) and Wild North Brewing Co.
While we’re on the subject of beverages, let’s not forget the William Tell Family Estate, who use local fruit in the vinegars, hard ciders and perry (think cider, but with pears) that they sell at the Farmers Market and beyond.
And there’s coffee too! The beans may not be local, but award-winning Lark Coffee Roasters adds some Creston Valley magic using beans they roast locally themselves. Be sure to try the Blackbird blend!
This blog only scratched the surface of the Creston Valley incredible local food scene. You can find out so much more by checking out the rest of our website, which feature more detailed information about it.
Alternatively, if you would like to visit many of the farms, fruit stands, orchards and wineries in the area then download our handy new Food & Farm Map & Directory or pick up a copy at the Creston Valley Visitor Centre when you arrive.
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.