Sunny Saturdays are perfect for farm tours and fish and chips, so yesterday that’s exactly what I did.
Under the blazing sun and clear morning sky, I first headed to The Sharing Farm in Terra Nova Park. This easily accessible public space in Richmond’s northwest corner has 65 acres of protected land, trails, viewing platforms, and picnic areas.
It’s also home to several endeavours in urban agriculture, including The Sharing Farm, which originated 10 years ago as the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project. That group’s mandate was harvesting neglected fruit trees and sharing the food with the community. A decade later, it’s evolved into a registered non-profit that grows fruits and vegetables for the Richmond Food Bank.
They do even more than that, however, and my mind started spinning as they explained their many projects to me.
They have a CSA-inspired produce program; host interns and agricultural students from various universities; manage teams of volunteers; partner with dozens of local organizations, corporations, schools, and community foundations; are home to honey bees; provide food for community dinners; sell at their own market stand on Saturdays; provide herbs and other goods to stores like Save-On; and much more.
All of this is done on a very tight budget, so they have to be innovative and organized to keep the farm successful agriculturally and financially.
I’d like to draw attention to their main mandate, however, which has always been to provide the Richmond Food Bank with FRESH produce.
This is incredibly significant, because most food entering foods banks is usually canned or dry, and often devoid of much actual nutrition. It can therefore be difficult for low-income people to access much healthy food, even if they’re fed by a Food Bank. The Sharing Farm provides locals in need with skillfully grown, fresh, organic produce, leveling the playing field between rich and poor when it comes to nutritional, whole foods.
And this is good food. We pulled carrots from the ground and I experienced the sweet orange crunch of summer. As we wiped the carrots off with our hands, field coordinator Kareno said, “You don’t have to worry if it’s perfectly clean, because this is good, pure soil. I’m vegan, and though most people get their Vitamin B12 from animal products, mine is somehow off the charts. I swear it’s from all the dirt I eat!” And that right there is why I love farmers.
There’s always a lot happening at The Sharing Farm, and I’m excited to participate in some of their upcoming events – on the last Thursday of every month, for example, they host a community potluck. I LOVE POTLUCKS, and I’m soooo going to the one on July 26th. In August there’s the Garlic Festival, and every week there’s volunteer opportunities and chances to learn from their knowledgeable staff. To everyone at The Sharing Farm, I commend you on your incredible work, and thank you for a wonderful tour.
I next headed to Steveston for my first meal of fish and chips this year. Yes, I’m well aware of the irony in trading carrots for fries, but it was too sunny to pass up fish on the docks!
Locals already know of the rivalry between the two main fish and chips shops in Steveston: Pajo’s and Dave’s. Most people have their favourite of the two, and some are quite passionate in their reasoning. Fresher fish! Better fries! Crispier batter! Cooler location! There are many elements to consider in a fish and chips battle, and I’ll do my best to weigh them equally.
Because of its prime location on the water, Pajo’s got the first visit. They’ve been around as long as I have (date of birth: 1985) and are just down from Crab King on Steveston’s expansive harbour front. On any given summer weekend, Pajo’s is swarmed by crowds seeking paper cones filled with deep-fried ocean and earth (fish and potatoes).
I joined the long queue, and ordered a combo ($16.99) that allowed for a taste of cod, salmon, and halibut, with chips and tartar sauce.
Once you pickup your meal (on a busy day, the wait is about 10-15 minutes), there’s a counter with everything you’ll need to season your food: seasoning salt, lemon pepper, white vinegar, malt vinegar (in the English tradition), and ketchup. There’s also fresh lemon wedges to squeeze over your fish, which I highly recommend.
The first time someone told me you could get battered and fried salmon at Pajo’s, I wrinkled my nose and shook my head disapprovingly. It just sounded wrong. Turns out it’s actually SO RIGHT, and my new favourite! Here’s why: when battered and fried, the more delicate flavours of white fish can be lost to the overwhelming taste of oily batter.
The strong pink salmon, however, stands up and says “I taste like myself, just with crunch!” The butter-y halibut was also great, but the cod (poor, unglamorous cod), came in third. It was still good, but parts of it were tough and chewy. The fries had potato skins still on them (bonus points) and were soft and crunchy. The tartar sauce could have had a little more zing, but that didn’t stop me from dunking salmon into it enthusiastically.
The batter on the fish was crunchy, thin, and manageable to eat, and now I’m curious to see what Dave’s is like. Pajo’s, run by an efficient team of hard-working teenagers, provided a satisfying, greasy, summer lunch right on the water, and I’d take people back there for sure. And yes, fish and chips are deep-fried so they SHOULD be somewhat greasy! Just don’t tell the healthy people at The Sharing Farm I said that.
Dave’s Fish and Chips, you’re up next time, and a grease-battling kale chips recipe to come…….
For anyone interested in a little tour of the Sharing Farm’s Saturday market, here you are!