A new initiative aimed at positioning the Fraser Valley as a global food destination launches Thursday, July 26 in Abbotsford’s historic downtown.
The Valley Food and Farm Collective (VFF) is spearheaded by Josh Vanderheide, owner of Field House Brewing, and Bonnie Friesen, executive chef and head of food services at Field House Brewing.
The VFF is a call-to-action by local food producers and restaurants to establish a more meaningful food culture where local farmers, artisans, and chefs endeavour to bridge the gap between what is farmed and crafted with the food that is cooked and shared.
The VFF will include food trucks, live music, and an educational component.
The 9,000-square-foot building, located at 2518 West Railway St., will host farmers’ markets every Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.
The completion of phase one also includes community offices, a creative community space, and a partnership with Valley Food Market.
Phase two, which begins in November, includes a commissary kitchen, a communal brewhouse, a local-food cafe, community rental space and a music venue.
Other initiatives include local food certification (creating standards for what local food means to the Valley) and re-defining the local chef culture to teach and inspire a new generation of chefs.
Friesen, who joined forces with Vanderheide in 2017, said he believes that food is a universal language that connects everyone.
“This is what struck me and changed the course of my life when I had the opportunity to travel,” she said.
“Countries with the smallest footprint were so diverse in what they ate, how they spoke, and the manner in which they ate together, yet the common connection was the deep-rooted heritage of growing, cooking, and sharing food.
“‘Breaking bread’ breaks down barriers, makes us human, and creates connection.”
Vanderheide said the challenges that led to the creation of VFF were “a lack of defined food culture in the Valley, limited access to local food, and minimal ‘buy local’ incentives.”
Now, the food grown in the Valley, from the boutique farmer to the large-scale producer, can stay in the Valley.
“We have the food and the people who want it, but we need to create the connection point and actually bring it from the farm and into our city,” Vanderheide said.
Several like-minded businesses have joined the Field House duo and Vanderheide said they are committed to sourcing locally and embracing the belief of collaboration over competition.
Tourism Abbotsford executive director Craig Nichols said the city is “excited to see the collaboration and energy” among the agri-tourism partners.
“Abbotsford has a revitalized energy, and we welcome everyone to experience it through our growing food culture,” he said.
The VFF is governed by a representative board of advisors and a board of directors consisting ofcommunity leaders.
It is managed by executive director Kathleen Robinson, whose background is in environment and resources studies.