Friday, 31 May 2013

Love Your Farmer: Makaria Farm

Heather and Brock McLeod
Earlier this week I had the privilege of spending a rainy morning with Heather McLeod from Makaria Farm.  I was invited to come and tour their amazing farm and see all of the beautiful organic produce they are growing.

As part of my Love Your Farmer series, I want to showcase amazing farmers and food producers in the Cowichan Valley.  As I have said before, being a good home cook is more than just putting a meal together.  Planning and shopping for your food is a huge part to feeding ourselves and our families.  While many grocery stores stock organic fruits and vegetables, buying straight from the farm is always a better choice.  We need to support our local farmers, for their well being and for ours.  Did you know that once a vegetable is picked it starts to loose its nutrients within hours?  When we purchase beans at the grocery store for example that come all the way from California, by the time it reaches our plates it may have lost up to 45% of its nutrients.  When we buy direct from our farmers, we are guaranteed freshly picked produce that is still nutrient dense.  Assuming that you eat your veggies shortly after bringing them home (not dying a slow death at the bottom of the fridge) you are getting all the good nutrients that you after.  And since so many parents are struggling to get their kids to eat vegetables in the first place, it seems a wasted effort to me if the beans on their plate don't have all the good stuff you were trying to get into them.

Beautiful lettuce growing in soil packs housed in recycled bread trays
Fortunately here on Vancouver Island, farm to table living is possible.  Farms such as Makaria, run by Heather and Brock McLeod offer freshly picked, locally and organically grown produce.  While they weren't always farmers, it is clear that they are living their passion staying connected to the land and finding joy in feeding those around them.  You can read more about their journey from city dwellers to organic farmers here.

I have long believed that without love, food will never taste good.  You can cook the same thing over and over again, but cook it angry or annoyed and it just won't turn out.  I feel the same way about how we grow our food.  We all know how much better a happy chicken tastes compared to a sad, mistreated one.  Our food is a living entity and it absorbs all that is around it.  What Brock and Heather have created on their farm radiates love and care.  You can feel it as soon as you step onto the property and you can absolutely taste it in their food.

Zealous zucchini
Makaria grows a variety of vegetables including: zucchini, broccoli, leeks, many different kinds of lettuce, spinach, kale, cauliflower, fennel (which is the best I have ever had), winter squash, potatoes, chard and strawberries to name just a few.  They are committed to organic farming so you know that the health of the soil, workers and food are all preserved.  And because it is picked and sold the same day, you know that your food remains nutrient dense and delicious.  Heather shared with me that they have customers whose children won't eat vegetables in the winter because they don't taste the same as those grown from Makaria.  There is an important point to make here.  Not all vegetables taste the same.  I could never get my kids to eat kale, they would cry at the sight.  When I started buying locally grown kale, my 5 year old started eating it like carrots.  The beautiful kale that I brought home from Makaria earlier this week found its way into our chilli and it was sweet and delicious.

One of the many greenhouses growing everything from leeks to chard
Gorgeous zucchini flowers, about to turn into a delicious snack
These lettuces look like roses!
The colour of these baby greens are amazing, I couldn't take my eyes off of them.
Miracle lettuce that is growing in the ground, they have to use sprinklers with motion sensors to keep the ravens away!
The first 400 strawberry plants.  Makaria is famous for their strawberries so they planed 6000 more!
I was VERY fortunate to pick some of these beauties and take them home with me.  They made it to suppertime and were gone in 5 minutes. 
Heather's "garlic empire", she is very proud of this field of green and the scapes are starting to peek through. 

So how to you get your hands on this amazing food?  There a loads of options.  One is to find them at one of the many Farmer's Markets that they attend.  Another option is to sign up for their CSA (community supported agriculture) program.  $21.00 a week gets you fresh vegetables every week for 21 weeks from June to November.  For those of you that can't make it out to the farm every week, they now have a delivery service that only costs an extra $2.00 a week and they bring everything right to your door.  They are also delivering right down to Victoria!  If you aren't ready to commit to a CSA program, they also have a farm stand that is open 7 days a week from 11am- 6 pm.  Every day they put out the bounty their farm has to offer and sell it on an honour system.  In this day and age, I think that is pretty amazing.  They are also suppling their produce to many different markets as and restaurants.  Check out the list here, they might be closer to you than you think.  And for those of you who plan to stock up for the winter months, their food security club is fantastic.

If you are thinking, this all sounds great, but we can't afford to buy organic food, it is too expensive, I have good news!  I asked Heather how her prices compare to that of store bought organic and conventional food.  You might be surprised to learn that their produce is almost always less expensive than Thrifty's Certified Organic veggies, unless it is winter and either slightly more or the same as conventional produce.  This makes buying local, organic food accessible for almost everyone.  It supports our local economy, helps to ensure food security on Vancouver Island and provides better nutrition for you and your family.

Home cooking is important for our health, enjoyment and connection not only to our food, but also to those we share it with.  Connecting with local farmers, wherever you live, is so important.  Small farmers love what they do and it comes though in the food they grow for you.  If you are in Duncan tomorrow morning, I highly encourage you to go and visit Heather and Brock at the Duncan Farmer's Market and check out what they are selling.  Sourcing out good local food is exciting and getting your children involved is a great way to teach them where their food comes from and how to eat well.

A big thank you to Heather and Brock for inviting me onto your farm, it was such an inspiring morning!


  1. Great article about a great place. Thank you for sharing Brook and Heather and Makaria Farm work with the world!

  2. BTW have you had a chance to check out the magical Teafarm in North Cowichan?

  3. Thanks Clemens! Makaria is a great place, they are doing so many amazing things on their farm. It is very inspiring to see all that they have created, not to mention, Brock and Heather are wonderful people.

    I love Teafarm! I drink their tea almost every day. I was actually going to contact them next week. We are so fortunate to live here, I am always amazed at the beautiful food that is being grown and produced here, it is very unique.

    1. Sweet, let me know when the article comes out, and I will be sure to promote it. Teafarm is a client and I would love to see them featured here!

      Thank you!

    2. Thanks Clemens, I'll let you know as soon as I have that up! I'm going to contact Tea Farm this week.

  4. A really great article, Catherine! How have I missed The Sunday Lunch? Indeed Heather and Brock are Cowichan Foodie icons and I loved the bit about food tasting better when cooked with love.

  5. Thanks so much Brenda and thanks for reading!

  6. Beautiful blog Catherine. Your photos are almost good enough to eat! We are truly blessed to live in this valley.