It’s the season when farmers’ markets pop-up throughout the Metro Vancouver. But one attraction in Richmond combines an ever-changing cornucopia of fresh produce with a surprising array of additional reasons to drop by.

Heaping fruit and vegetable displays radiate in and around the massive market barn at Richmond Country Farms. But when you add the site’s winery tasting room a few steps away plus a menagerie of farm animals in picket-fence enclosures, it becomes a perfect destination for a family-friendly excursion.

When we recently visited, the farm’s sweet, own-grown strawberries had just arrived. But they’re not the only treats to unfurl your reusable shopping bags for.

“We’re famous for our corn and we also have our nugget new potatoes right now,” says Susan Hogler, who manages the farm with husband Harry and son Lucas. “People also love our kale, broccoli and blueberries and, of course, we’re huge on pumpkins,” she adds, referencing the beloved Pumpkin Patch event (complete with train rides and vintage tractor trundles) staged here every fall.

But while the farm is also planning a brand-new, family-friendly event this summer—a bloom-packed sunflower festival that’s expected to run in August—you don’t have to wait until then to head on over. Read on for some handpicked reasons to visit.

Strawberries from Richmond Country Farms
Richmond Country Farms' own crop of strawberries has just arrived at the market. | Photo: ​John Lee

Tasty produce

Richmond has a long and enduring history as an agricultural powerhouse. Family-run for more than 40 years, Richmond Country Farms is a direct link to that bounteous, farm-to-table heritage.

Its covered market tables are piled high with produce from its own fields plus other BC farms and beyond. And while that means you can certainly stock up on well-priced bananas and pineapples here, it also means there’s plenty of locally-grown produce to buy. On our visit, that included everything from Okanagan apples to BC hothouse tomatoes. “We really try to encourage shoppers to support local farms,” says Hogler.

But the market doesn’t only sell produce. Inside, it’s also full of goodies from regional artisan producers. We spotted a wide selection of BC honey, pickles, and preserves, plus Burnaby-made sausages and fresh-baked breads. Perhaps best of all were the tempting pies from Langley’s Krause Berry Farms—strawberry and rhubarb recommended.

Produce stands at Richmond Country Farms
The market shop is big lure for locals and visitors. | Photo: ​John Lee

Animal magic

While loading your car with all of your market purchases, you’ll likely notice a gaggle of boisterous roosters strutting around the parking lot as if they own the place. The Richmond Country Farms site is home to a wide array of camera-ready critters, all housed in cute enclosures studded with red-painted miniature barns.

“We started with the animals a few years back, and we just couldn’t stop!” says Hogler, adding that she has a particular soft spot for the alpacas. These shaggy, doe-eyed camelids are gentle, sensitive creatures and many visitors love to snap photos of them.

Alpaca at Richmond Country Farms
You’re never far from some delightful animals at Richmond Country Farms. | Photo: ​John Lee

On our visit, we also spent plenty of time peeking at the colourful chicken varieties (including lots of twittering little chicks) plus the site’s geese, goats, donkeys, horses, and sheep. Our favourites? A couple of tenacious goats that had climbed on top of a barn, hoping to snag some leafy snacks from the trees growing alongside.

A goat at Richmond Country Farms
The site includes a photogenic menagerie of animals. | Photo: ​John Lee

Winery delights

Most of the animal enclosures are a few steps from the market’s nursery area, where—on our visit—green-thumbed locals were stocking-up on springtime plants and shrubs for their own gardens. Before leaving, many of these shoppers were also beelining past the animals to the site’s other top draw.

Country Vines Winery is a warm and inviting tasting room pouring generous samples and selling bottles of the farm’s own wine. But these aren't your typical farm wines: the operation, which opened its doors in 2016, is a serious standalone business that produces lots of award-winning and locally-loved libations.

Country Vines Winery
The site also houses a charming winery tasting room. | Photo: ​John Lee

Most bottles are well-priced at around $20 or less (the top price is $30). And its vine-framed, recently revamped patio—with a canopy covering and lounge seating (plus occasional wandering chickens)—is perfect for a laid-back drink. Summer weekends also mean a tempting food program, often with tasty tapas and gourmet pizzas.

It’s the wine that keeps many fans coming back, says Lucas Hogler, the winemaker who runs this side of the operation. “We lean towards the whites with our estate wines, using grapes we grow here,” he says, adding that their Viognier and Schonburger are very popular, while their diverse selection also includes Pinot Noir and sweet dessert wines.

What would he recommend for first-time visitors to try? The Italian-style 2017 Pinot Gris is a bestseller, he says. “It looks like a rosé but it’s actually a white. And it really is the perfect summer sipper.”

A bottle of wine from Country Vines Winery
A great summer sipper: the 2017 Pinot Gris. | Photo: ​John Lee

If you go

Located at 12900 Steveston Highway, Richmond Country Farms is currently open daily from 9:00am to 8:00pm. Country Vines Winery is also open daily, from 11:00am to 6:00pm. The site is easy to reach by car but it’s also highly accessible via several transit bus services—plan your trip via TransLink’s website.

A rooster standing on a fence
A crowing rooster at Richmond Country Farms. | Photo: ​John Lee