Agassiz is a treasure trove of unique garden spaces, innovation-driven farms and speciality food producers, in a pocket of the Fraser Valley that’s rich with agricultural history.
And this Saturday, cyclists will be given a backstage pass to explore a dozen different locations, each providing an opportunity to learn a little more about where food comes from. The Agassiz Farms Cycle Tour runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and participants can meander through the community at their own pace to visit each location.
Many of the stops will be selling fresh produce straight from the farm. At Hammersley Farms, for example, you can pick your own blueberries right off the bushes, while over at The Back Porch you can hang out with the goats while enjoying a cup of freshly roasted coffee from a 1919 fire roaster.
But one stop on the tour will be showing visitors just how easy it is to get fresh produce on the table more regularly — by growing it yourself.
The Agassiz Community Gardens is a new stop on the tour this year, but is well-known to locals. The gardens are tucked away from the downtown core of Agassiz, with a quiet spot to enjoy a closeup view of iconic Mt. Cheam.
“It’s one of those hidden gems,” says Laurens Van Vliet, of the Agassiz Community Gardens Society. “It’s such a nice little area there.”
The garden includes 58 separate plots, with the average size of 20 by 20 feet. The gardens are snapped up every year, by gardeners of varying backgrounds, experience and interests.
Many of them will be spending Saturday at the gardens, providing explanations and demonstrations of how to get the most out of your garden plot.
“We like to encourage people to start their own gardens,” he says, “So we have some good examples of very small plots, there will be explanations about gardening, in little groups, and they can ask us questions.
“That’s basically part of our objective, as a community garden,” Van Vliet adds. “To educate people in making healthy choices and growing their own food.”
Van Vliet says some of the gardeners may be selling some of their produce, and they’ll be selling water as a fundraiser for their society and there’s a porta-potty on site as well.
They’re eager to show off their garden to visitors, and it’s a worthwhile stop along the tour.
“We are one of the largest community gardens in British Columbia,” he says. And when the harvest is more than one needs, it’s usually given to the local food bank.
There’s plenty more to see on the tour, too. The Agassiz Farms Cycle Tour is the only local tour this year, with Chilliwack’s not being planned. Slow Food Vancouver planned the last eight annual tours, but Tourism Harrison has picked up the organizing this time around. They’ve mapped out a 25K route along flat public roads, and brought on some other new stops, including Meille Meadows Farm.
There are also long time favourite stops, like Farmhouse Natural Cheeses. The quaint shop run by award-winning cheesemaker Debra Amrein-Boyes. The shop has received solid praise across the country and national media attention for their successes in their field.
Find a little history along the way by stopping in at the Agassiz Harrison Museum, right downtown Agassiz at the train station and Visitor Information Centre.
Other featured highlights will include fresh pies and jams from Cabin Fever Country, Golden Eagle Farm (an on-land fish farm), Honeyview Farms, Sparkes Corn, Tasty Chicken, Valedorn Dairy Farm and the UBC Dairy and Research Centre.
As an added bonus to the day, the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre is hosting their annual open house. Some of the country’s top scientists are working at the historic research station, alongside students working on important agriculture research projects. There will be short talks held throughout the day, and the public is invited to tour the station and speak with these professionals.
Getting onto the tour is as easy as showing up at the Agassiz Agricultural Hall at 6800 Pioneer Ave. Registration is $10 for adults, but there is no fee for those under 18. Cyclists are reminded to bring cash, as most of the farms do not have the ability to accept card payments.
For more information, or to register online, visit www.fraservalleycycletours.com.