Bring your Boots Harvest Party: Root & Vine Acres Comes of Age!
Fall is here and for the Creston Valley that means a few things: beautiful fall colours speckle the valley floor and mountain tops, heaps of pumpkins and squashes pile in front of fruit stands, and for many of us the return to work after summer vacations. In contrast, for farmers the summer has been prime “hay-making” time filled with long days of work and fewer hours of sleep. So when fall arrives it offers a much needed slowing down.
However, before the winter sets in, no autumn in a farming town would be quite right without a good harvest party! As the saying goes “all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy” and farmers are far from dull. Working hard all year long, these folks usually save just enough gas in the tank for a final burst of shindiggin’ good fun to celebrate another year on the farm.
Bring Your Boots ’cause this ain’t your regular dance Party!
So when I got the call from my friends over at Root & Vine Acres, a market farm legendary for it’s organic veggies and artisan meats, to join them in early October for their “Bring Your Boots” Harvest Party, I knew I couldn’t miss it. In Spring 2014 Root & Vine Acres hired bands, hooked up with Kimberley-based food truck Food EX to cater a meal fresh from the farm, and threw a heck of a party that I had failed to get to. I wasn’t planning to make the same mistake twice.
Arriving to the hoedown in my traditionally late fashion, I could have easily mistaken the line of cars parked along the dirt road for the outskirts of an infamous Kootenay music fest rather than a farm. It almost seemed to be the case as I meandered onto the farm midway through the set of Nelson Farmers’ Market staple Rafferty Funksmith & Band entertaining a bevy of children and parents from a hay bail covered stage!
Arriving to the hoedown in my traditionally late fashion, I could have easily mistaken the line of cars parked along the dirt road for the outskirts of an infamous Kootenay music fest rather than a farm.
After indulging my childlike pleasures in a funky rendition of “Old MacDondald” I snuck further into the farm’s “backstage”, joining giddy children and adults excitedly snapping photos of the real rock stars of the event; the gaggles of goats, cows, pigs, chickens, and other livestock that call 4 acres of livestock pens at Root & Vine their home.
Snapping some selfies with these celebrities and dancing to a few more tunes, I finally got to catch up with Root & Vine owner/operator Jessica Picinin, to find out how such a successful venture came to be.
Mo’ money, mo’ milk, mo’ problems!
Aside from the usual celebration of a summer of hard work, the harvest party has also taken on a new purpose in the local food movement: an opportunity to connect customers and consumers with their food, according to Jessica.
The “locavores” who haunt Farmers’ Markets buying meats for home or for their delis, cheese shops, and restaurants want to know that the animals they are eating were ethically treated and fed well. So for Jessica, “Bring Your Boots” was not just about celebrating, but indeed showcasing the farm to her biggest fans!
However, that being said, this year’s harvest party was of special importance for Root & Vine, celebrating its first year at its new and improved location.
Started 9 years ago with just a few livestock, a meager budget, access to a greenhouse and some land on her family’s farm, Jessica began her modest endeavor by selling her meat and veggies at local farmers’ markets in Creston and Nelson. However, blessed with inhuman amounts of energy and an awesome team of six close friends/employees, Jessica quickly saw business boom as her reputation for some of the best meats in the Kootenays grew.
And it wasn’t just local and farmers’ market frequenters that took notice. After collaborating with European master butcher Uwe Gwinner of Kimberley two years ago, Jessica has begun selling her meats directly to the trendy specialty cheese shop Le Grande Fromage in Nelson and Fernie.
However, with this sudden success Jessica realized her growing numbers of critters were ready to spread their wings and fly the proverbial coup (or in this case, the family farm in Erickson). To do that Picinin started looking for the following:
- chicken coup,
- place to live,
- be by the water
And while it might have seemed like a tall order, by late last year a new home on 5 acres in the Wynndel area was purchased and Root & Vine started moving in by January 2015! Though Jessica admits she had to sacrifice the “No Mosquitos” wish, she got everything else she wanted on a beautiful piece of property snuggled close to the water and with a great view of the mountains.
For most of us putting up a small fence or painting a room after moving a family to a new home might feel like a modest accomplishment. In contrast, Jessica and the Root & Vine crew spent most of 2015 building new barns, livestock pens, and gardens to accommodate a Noah’s Arcs worth of animals on to the farm. “Thank god Tom at Sunset Seed treats me so well” confessed Jessica, thanking the local farm supplier for special ordering 20+ rolls of fencing from Vancouver on short notice.
On top of that there was still a business to run as well. So when not building, feeding animals, or weeding, farmers’ market trips to Nelson starting at 6:00 AM and arriving back at home at 2:00 AM ensured a regularly sleepless weekly adventure afield.
Wisdom from The Farm School of Hard Knocks
When asked about the experience of shuffling from one farm to another, Picinin admits that there have been some challenges and lessons learned, quickly dispensing the following wisdom:
- “a post pounder is better than a post auger”
- “you should always build the pen BEFORE the animal arrives”
- “fence your garden & keep the pigs out!”
Finally, like a sage monk, Jessica stoically drops a piece of prosaic wisdom that can only be learned through long sleepless nights running down delinquent livestock: “Goats teach you how to fence, pigs teach you patience”.
“Goats teach you how to fence, pigs teach you patience”.
To say that Jessica and everyone at Root & Vine acres deserved to throw a harvest party and celebrate this crazy roller-coaster of a year would be an understatement! While it was as much an opportunity to share her success with her customers and friends, it was also a well earned, breathless victory dance in the end zone after running a whole 110 yard CFL sized gauntlet!
And what would she say to anyone else crazy enough to try the same and go into farming for themselves? “Look around! You feel fulfilled, like its going towards something,” she says as she surveys a pink autumn sun setting over the mountains and fields. “You can do it!” Clearly the marathon is worth it for a victory dance in this sort of serene end zone…
So next time your enjoying a good meal, don’t forget to mentally high five the farmer who helped bring it to your table. These folks are in my humble opinion the unsung heroes behind the foods that we love to celebrate & enjoy! And should you be lucky enough to get your fork & knife into some of the meats and produce originating from Root & Vine acres I doubt you’ll forget to!
Thus, I tip my hat to Jess and all the gang over at Root & Vine Acres for all their hard work and success! And you know which Harvest Party I’ll be preparing for next year 😉