– Story by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe
Five Minutes into our conversation and it’s hard to imagine someone who loves food more than Mike Murphy, the deep-voiced, friendly and straight-shooting owner of 10 Acres Farm and its three associated restaurants.
A fixture in the restaurant business since he was 15, Mike’s had a hand in growing more than a few hot spots in Victoria. Most recently, he opened up 10 Acres at the Pier, as well as the cafe and market, after taking over the spot from Haro’s last year and undertaking extensive renovations.
“Logistically, it made sense. We can share a lot of the food prep between restaurants,” he says, referencing The Kitchens and The Commons, his two other eateries on opposite sides of the same block in downtown Victoria. “Living out here already, and being familiar with the area, it made sense to have a restaurant less than four kilometres from the farm.”
The “farm” is 10 Acres Farm, which is—unsurprisingly—10 acres in the heart of the Saanich Peninsula and a veritable bread basket for the South Island. As well as growing many of the vegetables and herbs for all three restaurants, the farm also raises swine, ducks and chickens. It has up to 1,100 fruit-bearing trees and vines, says Mike, including a recent addition of 300 Devon cider apple trees, for a near-future cider expansion. Other future plans include putting in a full-scale bakery, increasing meat processing capabilities, making on-site ice cream and much more.
It’s a way to ensure the highest level of quality possible. When everything is made by hand, with the best possible ingredients, the product is naturally top tier, whether that end result is freshly baked bread, locally raised and fed pork, expertly pressed cider or abundant and healthy fresh fruit and veg.
Listening to Mike, it’s clear that sustainability and quality are top of the priority list for every level of his business, from composting every scrap that comes back from the restaurants, to stewing up their own feed for the Ossabaw swine raised on the farm, and even encouraging government to revisit regulations that would allow for local meat processing to cut down on both the environmental footprint and the cost of meat, as well as improving the welfare of the animals.
But whether he’s planning out the next steps for the farm, or brainstorming how to grow agri-tourism on the peninsula, or expanding the selection of take-home meals available at the market, Mike’s looking forward to the future.
“You can’t plan for a year like 2020,” he says, reflecting on opening 10 Acres at the Pier last summer. “We’re quite looking forward to this year, with things getting back to normal. Every single thing that comes up next year is going to have to be celebrated, and I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
Anthony Bourdain. He embodied the humanity and empathy of the industry, and both he and Parts Unknown will be missed. Such a tragic end… I was heartbroken.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
Pasta, with simple, quality ingredients that allow the noodles to shine. A pappardelle with mushrooms or a spaghetti with Manila clams are two favourites, but most cultures embrace some rendition of a noodle or dumpling in their cooking.
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I would probably set out to purchase some of the outstanding classics I owned when I was younger, starting with an Austin-Healy 100-4 that I bought from Rudi Koniczek’s Autohaus on Newport Avenue when I was in high school.
Littering. Since when has that become fashionable again? The government might not have thought it through when they took away ashtrays; the result is people who still smoke have nowhere to put their butts, and often leave them on the street, from where they often end up in the ocean.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
I love to be in cities and hang out in cafes and coffee shops. I can spend hours at a time in them, and two favourites are New York City and Montreal. But the West Coast has fabulous cafe culture too. It’s where you really get the fabric of the people.
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
Finishing the New York Times crossword, sudoku and Spelling Bee on a weekend day before I finish my second cup of coffee.
What makes your heart beat faster?
A warm, sunny day, driving my car with the top down and the right music playing on the stereo, next to my girl, and on a road trip adventure to somewhere we’ve never been.