Hi Root Cellar Community,
Autumn is creeping in. Which means we have endured both ‘the spring of Covid’ and ‘the summer of Covid’.
And our management team still stands. And still smiles.
To celebrate both this reality and the beginning of Harvest Season we took a much needed break to acknowledge having weathered this storm together.
Some people celebrate the changing seasons with a pumpkin spice latte; we celebrate with fresh air, feasts, fishing & farm visits.
Shaking the hands that grew the food is a big part of what we do at The Root Cellar.
Knowing who grew and made your food is not only about quality control, it’s about value alignment & learning, it’s about community & relationship building, about optimizing the nutrition in your food and lowering it’s carbon footprint, it’s about supporting sustainable food systems and strengthening our economy.
Many of these handshakes take place here in The Root Cellar parking lot, which is lovely. But sometimes you just need to get your shoes dirty and shake hands where the magic happens.
One of the most magical places I know is Ragley Farm in East Sooke. I am biased because my love of East Sooke is deep and everlasting, but this farm was an idyllic embodiment of ‘farm life.’ If you ever got to visit Josie’s weekend market, your windows were definitely down and that toasty earthy smell of meadows in the sunshine wafted in your window as you drove down their lane. When you parked at the farm the first thing you saw was the beautiful outdoor woodfire stone oven that has baked so many of my children’s weekend treats and the sourdough that is my achilles heel.
Stepping out of your car, you inevitably saw someone you knew and definitely crossed paths with a few chickens and maybe a duck as you approached the old farm house where the market was held. If you were there this time of year, the fig tree on the side of the building was dripping with fruit, and if you’re lucky a patron was on the porch playing guitar while their bowl of home made soup cooled. I haven’t even gotten to the flowers and the mountains of baking and produce heaped into mis-matched baskets on old farm tables inside, but I’m hoping you’re there with me enjoying it. And then, Josie took a break. There were whispers of grandchildren and slowing down, and enjoying life a little more. All fair and good reasons to step back, but the farm went still and the community lost a treasure.
This is a very long tale, but I need you to understand why it was so important to me to take our team to Ragley when the opportunity presented. You step foot on their soil and you get why we do this, why we want the community to benefit from the labours of love happening all around us on farms like Josie’s.
Our opportunity arrived during a quick chat with Brad Holmes over dinner at his restaurant and one of our favourite tables in town, Olo. When I learned they had taken over the farming at Ragley I was so excited I nearly spat out my food, but you can’t because it’s too good. Most of what graces the menus at Olo (and Hey Happy their other project) is grown now at Ragley Farm. Chef Brad is now also Farmer Brad, mentored by Josie herself; a match made in heaven as far as I am concerned. I clearly am overjoyed, and I swear when I learned this my food tasted even better.
I know my enthusiasm for these things can be excessive but I know in my bones that if any bit of it rubs off, our community will be better for it, and your food will certainly taste better too.
PS: Though now in the loving hands of the team at Olo, Ragley is no longer open to the public on weekends so my tales of heaps of veggies, soup, fresh baking and chickens are merely torment. I’m not sorry. If you had the pleasure of experiencing it you were one of the lucky ones.
PPS: I did say farming + fishing (thanks Ryan! Vancouver Island Lodge) + feasting right? … If you’re going to celebrate food, you have to do it right.