A visit to Valentine Farm gives you all the choices of a farmer’s market, but it’s in a beautiful country setting and is only a few minutes from downtown Summerland in the Okanagan valley.
Each year since 2000, Kim Stansfield puts countless hours into creating a spectacular vegetable garden in the Dale Meadows Valley where the soil is evidently rich and conducive to growing big healthy fruit and vegetables.
It’s a treat on a hot day to pass under the shade of the trees on the little pathway that leads down to the vegetable garden but even if it’s raining, it’s still fun to don your wellies, (and get muddy) as Valentine Farm is in one of the prettiest settings in Summerland.
A jungle in Summerland
Kim has a huge hothouse where she starts hundreds of plants each spring. As soon as they are ready they are carefully transplanted into the raised outside boxes and what follows over the next couple months is an unfolding of a jungle comprised of kale, all sorts like winterbor, vates blue and numerous other varieties, plus lettuce, arugula, spinach, parsnips, onions, strawberries, cukes, peas, carrots and row upon row of raspberries. Oh and the best garlic you have ever had.
It’s all right there in Kim’s garden and to be able to go and choose your own, pick it or cut it, then wash it in a sink in the middle of the field with 2 cats and Asta the gorgeous and funny SPCA-special dog looking on – is really a lovely way to spend a summer’s afternoon.
Balk, balk, balk, balk…
One afternoon down at the chicken coop Kim describes how things work in the Valentine Farm pecking order. She tells me that the cockerell, apart from rousing everyone each morning with a fine “cock-a-doodle-do”, mostly just struts around looking kingly, but technically, for laying eggs, the gals need him about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.
Kim points out a chicken, an exceptionally pretty one, who obviously keeps herself in good shape. Kim says she’s a bit like a model; looks great but can’t lay an egg to save her life. She then points to a motley crew hanging out by the shed and says proudly “Those gals are golden – each of them lays an egg a day. Do you know why they look so motley?” she asks. “Haven’t a clue”. I answer. “Because laying eggs is really hard work and it knocks the stuffing out of them.” (Can you say that around a chicken?)
I learned a lot about chickens that afternoon, thanks to Kim. They are friendly, inquisitive, intelligent, and their ability to lay an egg, a bit of miracle in itself, makes them rather like the perfect vending machine.
Not only is Kim a talented gardener, she is also a superb cook. Kim is on our Summerland Online wine tasting panel and her presentation of various dishes is a pure delight, like the salad she brought to the Chardonnay tasting – it was stunning with delicate wildflowers scattered on top.
The Vinegar Tart
Kim Stansfield and husband John Gordon, make a lot of artisanal, organic vinegar at Vinegar Works. Their Gewürztraminer white wine vinegar is a stunner paired with truffle oil. Using a fork you start with a bit of vinegar, then slowly add the truffle oil – and then a dash of sea salt to taste. One of the easiest dressings possible yet pure bliss.
All vinegars made by Kim and John are produced right on the property. Each fall, the pair harvest the grapes from their two acre vineyard, first making the wine necessary for a base, then transforming it into vinegar.
Kim has a delightful blog called the Vinegar Tart with lots of great cooking tips and more than sixty recipes. Check it out but also have a farm visit.
Vinegar Works and Valentine Farm are open daily from 11-5 during the summer, so you can stop by and pick up some vinegar and have a wander down to that fabulous garden.
article/photography by Stephanie Seaton