The Saanich Fair was, for many, a fun place to get friends and family together to eat and play over the Labour Day weekend. Others, like Victorian Epicure farmer John Riese, were there to show their pick of vegetables and fruits to fair judges.
Epicure won 14 ribbons this year at the fair, including the A. A. Higgs Trophy for Most Entries in Vegetables, Best in Show for Peppers, and numerous firsts for various vegetables. Farmer John, as he is affectionately known around Epicure, is justifiably proud of his achievement, especially because this is his first year entering with vegetables grown on Epicure land.
“I retired and now I’m working seven days a week,” joked Farmer John. “I haven’t been to the fair in 11 years. It’s great. I love doing it. There’s a lot of satisfaction in growing stuff.”
Unlike some of the entries, Epicure’s organic produce can’t be found at the market — the fresh grown goods from what has been dubbed ‘The Home Team Garden’ are available for sale to Epicure employees only. And they’re thrilled to have award-winning fresh farmed vegetables available for less than what they’d pay at a local grocery store.
“I love it. It’s a great perk to working here,” said West Shore resident and Epicure employee Sue Beckham. “There’s everything from Swiss chard to Russian red garlic, and I know exactly where everything is coming from. I’m especially fond of the tomatoes, which I’ve been canning and turning into pasta sauce. We’re all really proud of John’s work.”
The vegetables for Epicure’s garden started off in greenhouses near the 80-acre property, and then were transplanted into the agricultural reserve farmland surrounding Epicure’s main offices on West Saanich Road. The idea for fresh produce at work began with Epicure‘s president and founder Sylvie Rochette just this year.
“The hundred mile diet wasn’t enough around here,” said Sylvie with a laugh. “Most of what we produce is eaten by people who work within 100 feet of the fields. They buy from a stand by our parking lot as they leave work. Now that’s a great way to get fresh food.”
Founded in 1991, Victorian Epicure is a local spice blend and cookware company that currently employs more than 170 people from the Saanich Peninsula, Victoria, and the West Shore.
They expect to grow rapidly in the coming year and increase the number of employees.