Farmer’s Market Feast: Garlic scapes & new potatoes

Going to the Farmer’s Market this early in the season can feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day, each week bringing you new lettuce and herbs.  While July and August bring with it an abundance of variety, it takes a while for the produce to ramp up (no onion pun intend). But there are goodies laced throughout. Certainly enough to inspire even the most novice cook to prepare a lovely, nourishing, Farmer’s Market Feast. Continue reading “Farmer’s Market Feast: Garlic scapes & new potatoes”

Where to shop for the best prices on fruit & vegetables in New West

Joanne Ho from Nature Village Farms scoops up some blueberries for a customer at the Royal City Farmers Market. Photo: Briana Tomkinson
Joanne Ho from Nature Village Farms scoops up some blueberries for a customer at the Royal City Farmers Market. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

We are a fruit- and veggie-loving family, but when we load up on produce, I try not to do it at the big box grocery stores around here. The average price of produce is just too high at Safeway, Save-On, Buy Low and the like. I read the flyers for the loss leaders and in-season specials, but when I really need to stock up on veg I try to go to one of the local specialty produce stores for better selection, price and quality. Continue reading “Where to shop for the best prices on fruit & vegetables in New West”

Shopping locally this Christmas is a gift to the Royal City

Presents around a Christmas tree.
Presents around a Christmas tree.

As the Christmas shopping season arrives with Black Friday in the US, I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than camping outside of a store in order to buy stuff. Except for shooting, trampling or pepper-spraying your fellow shoppers in order to get at said stuff, of which there were many reported instances this year.

In reaction to the frenzy, the Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters has created Occupy Christmas. It builds on the magazine’s long-running campaign, Buy Nothing Day, a day of rest from consumerism, as well as Occupy Wall Street, which the magazine also started.

Despite the recent controversial Occupy camps in various cities, including Vancouver, Occupy Christmas isn’t about setting up tents at the mall or harassing shoppers, or even, as the Retail Council of BC alleges in a recent CBC story, putting elves, er, retail workers out of a job. It’s about using your resources to “make the conscious decision to fuel your own local economy” during the holidays, and to “really become a part of the holiday spirit.”

In other words, supporting and giving back to your community while you celebrate what I like to call “Non-denominational gift-giving holiday!” So this year, I’m Occupying Christmas, here in New Westminster.

My holiday round usually starts with making greeting cards, and luckily, the best little paper shop around is Paper Poet (665 Columbia Street). They’ve got stamps, papercraft supplies, envelopes and loads of ideas for projects.

If you’re enthusiastic about crafts, but like me, suck at it, there are plenty of places to support others who are talented at making and growing things. Such as the Royal City Winter Market on December 3 and the River Market Holiday Show on December 10, 11, 17, and 18. The Van Dop Gallery, always amazing, is especially sparkly at Christmas (local jewellery, hint, hint to my honey).

For other gifts and decor, there’s a whole slew of local gift shops like Cadeaux, Red Brick, and Lofty Living. I wouldn’t turn down something vintage from Mid-Century Modern Home either! And for kids, Pedagogy Toys has lots of toys and books that encourage creativity, not battery use.

Presents don’t have to be stuff either – the older I get, the less stuff I want or need, so experiences make great presents. A class at the Circus School is good for all ages, or a wine club membership at Pacific Breeze for the over-19s. Then there are gift certificates for local restaurants or perhaps a ticket to a Christmas concert at the Massey. And if anyone wants to get me a ReUp BBQ Founders Crew membership to help crowdsource the funding for a New West location, the moaning you hear will be of pure bacon-filled happiness.

Which reminds me of another important part of Occupy Christmas – giving back locally and generously. From donating non-perishables to the local food bank at the Hyack Christmas Parade on December 19 to sponsoring a family in need to making a Christmas gift bag for a homeless person, there are many ways to help someone in the community have a brighter Christmas.

For me, Christmas isn’t about a bunch of obligatory presents. (Actually, it’s about 90% about the food!) You can think about what you’re shopping for and where the dollars go, and still enjoy Christmas with those you love. Doesn’t that sound sane? Then it must be crazy.

Christine Rowlands is a writer and editor in New Westminster. Her articles have appeared in alive and Momentum and she regularly writes reviews for Yelp. Her least favourite place in the world is Metrotown in December. 

At the Farmers Market, we are not strangers but neighbours

Volunteering in New Westminster connects you to the community like nothing else. There’s no shortage of causes to choose from: New West Environmental PartnersCommunity GardensHyackFrasersidePurpose SocietyDowntown BIAFamily Place, local resident’s associations, neighborhood festival committees, advisory boards for the city, Arts Council … the list goes on. My organization of choice is the Royal City Farmers Market.

Will Tomkinson, taking a break while volunteering at the 2009 summer market. Photo: Graham Ballantyne
Will, taking a break while volunteering at the 2009 summer market. Photo: Graham Ballantyne

The Royal City Farmers Market began operations in the spring of 2008. Each Thursday afternoon, the 4th street parking lot near Tipperary Park became a village square, busy with the sounds of commerce and the happy buzz of community. The market not only provided access to healthy, local food and supported local producers and business, but it was also a place to build bonds across neighborhoods and connect the folk of New West with events and groups active throughout the city. I was hooked, and hungry to be involved.

I put my name forward as a volunteer. I began by showing up early and staying late at the market, assisting with setup and teardown of the market booths. Soon I was invited on to the Board of Directors and at the Society AGM, I was confirmed as Vice President. I have loved every minute of it and I am sure this feeling is echoed by the volunteers on community and charitable boards throughout New Westminster:

On Saturday, April 17th, it is RCFM’s last market of the winter season. This was the first year RCFM hosted a monthly Winter Market, and by any measure it was a success. Once a month for the last five months, RCFM has returned to the Holy Trinity Cathedral parish hall and stocked it full of local vendors, food producers and community organizations. Initially, there was some worry if the good folks of the Royal City would come out and support the market in the same way they had in the summer season. But each month without fail, the market would be busy with friends and neighbours sharing stories over crepes and hot coffee, enjoying music or children’s activities and taking advantage of the best products the Farmer’s Market scene has to offer. At the market, we are not strangers, but neighbours.

So this is it, city. This Saturday is the big finale and the gang at RCFM have a great day lined up for you. There are more vendors at the April 17th market than at any previous RCFM winter market. This market is the long awaited ‘flower market’ with two fresh flower vendors, ready to help you brighten up your home. For musical entertainment, RCFM is proud to bring back steel guitarist Ross Werlick (one of my favorite market performers). Children will be treated to an eco-friendly activity at “Exploring a Green World” presented by Family Services of Greater Vancouver. As usual, the market remains a great place for families with kids to come and play and interact with their city. Doors open at 10am and the 2009/2010 RCFM winter season is officially closed as of 2:00 pm, when the market day ends. Weekly summer markets resume June 10th at 4pm in Tipperary Park.

RCFM – Winter Market from Royal City Farmers Market on Vimeo.

New Westminster soon to be inundated with grocery choices

New Westminster may soon have the distinction of having the most large grocery stores per capita in the Lower Mainland.

The grocery aisle at Wal-Mart. Photo: ratterrell (via Flickr)
The grocery aisle at Wal-Mart. Photo: ratterrell (via Flickr)

Wal-Mart has applied to open a new grocery supercentre in its Queensborough store. Thrifty Foods has just been announced as an anchor tenant in Sapperton’s coming Brewery District mixed-retail/residential complex next to SkyTrain and Royal Columbian Hospital. A new Safeway is coming to the Plaza 88 development at New Westminster SkyTrain. And of course, the River Market will open this summer as a newly food-focused destination with an as-yet-unnamed anchor grocer.

Meanwhile, Save-On just opened last summer up at Sixth & Sixth near the established Safeway in Royal City Centre, and IGA continues to draw Quayside & Downtown shoppers in Columbia Square. Then there’s the Safeway on McBride, big-box stores like PriceSmart, Choices and Superstore in neighbouring Burnaby and Coquitlam, a plethora of small local mom ‘n pop produce shops, specialty bakeries and butchers, and the Royal City Farmers Market.

How many grocery choices does a small city need? New Westminster has gone for so long with only a few megastores, and now suddenly we’re being inundated with them.

Perhaps there’s something we don’t know. I’d love to see the market research behind the decisions to locate new stores here. Big chains like Wal-Mart, Save-On and Thrifty Foods don’t open new locations on a whim.

My hunch: this is one more indication that the pace of change is about to accelerate in this city. Those new condo towers are finally ready to be filled with empty nesters and young professionals priced out of downtown, and the big box stores know it. New West is about to get a lot livelier.

Hyack the Holidays: Green Gifts

Snow Family by Graham Ballantyne
Snow Family by Graham Ballantyne

There’s a million green gifts out there, and an even larger number of gifts pretending to be green but really, with huge carbon footprints and huge consumptive and wasteful histories. Green really is the new black.

We’re selecting a few green goodies you might not necessarily see in your average Green Gift Guide in the mass media- and a few goodies special to New West and Tenth to the Fraser.

  1. Homegrown right here in New Westminster is the Biggest Little Garden in Town project. Originally designed to bring fresh produce to apartment-dwelling residents, and increase food sustainability in New West, this program has gained in popularity and reputation and now includes the opportunity for the general public to buy one of their custom made planters.
  2. Goods from the Royal City Farmers’ Market Winter Market. Due to the overwhelming success of the summer farmers’ market located in Tipperary Park, the RCFM organization made the decision to start a winter market. The first market kicked off December 12th with great success – and the next one is January 9th. While you can’t go and buy goods to give in time for Christmas, why not make your loved one a “gift card” and join them on January 9th to pick up homemade salsa, fresh cheese, beautiful jewelry, local art, fresh produce, and locally raised meat – just to name a few? There’s also bison dogs, kettlecorn, and hot beverages to make it a complete day. Everything is made, baked, or grown by the vendors themselves in BC. The RCFM Winter Market is on selected Saturdays once a month at Holy Trinity Cathedral from 10AM-2PM. More info is on their website.
  3. Seed bombs – you can make seed bombs yourself. We use West Coast Seeds for all our garden’s seeds because they are superior quality and a nice local company. Their seeds are available at a few local garden stores (it changes every year) as well as online and at their store in Ladner. You can follow directions for seed bombs (or seed balls if your peacenik side recoils at “-bomb” anything) from a number of websites – this is one from a West Coast gardener.
  4. For the post 19 crowd, why not take your gift receiver to check out Green Drinks on the first Wednesday of the month at The Heritage Grill? Green Drinks is an informal social night for people in the environmental field and other like minded individuals. Conveniently, The Heritage Grill is more or less right beside Columbia Skytrain Station.
  5. Consider giving a gift made locally from Etsy. Etsy is a large online community of crafters, often with one of a kind unique items. Using the “Shop Local” feature, I punched in New Westminster and came up with 13 recently updated shops. Most etsy-ers are okay with local pickups, too, to save on shipping.