In this Section
November 17, 2009
Who's at the Winter Market: Helmer's Organic FarmIn the photo: Jennie and Anna Helmer by their booth at the Winter Farmers Market outside WISE Hall.
At 5 a.m. on Farmers Market days, Anna and Jennie Helmer load up a truck with crates of potatoes and make the three hour trip to Vancouver from their farm in the Pemberton Valley. When the market closes down at 2 p.m. they reverse the procedure and drive the Sea to Sky highway for home again. It's a minimum 12-hour day, but then, long working hours are just part and parcel of a farmer's life.
As the daughters of Doug and Jeanette Helmer , the owners of Helmers Organic Farm , the two women are the youngest working members of a family who have been farming the land for generations (great grandfather Walter was one of the earliest Europeans to homestead the Pemberton Valley in the 1920s). Today the farm specializes in potatoes, up to 18 heritage varieties, which are grown according to certified organic and bio-dynamic methods. Yes, you just might find them burying cow horns in the fields under a full moon.
"We don't really know why, but for some reason that does seem to produce better crops", says Anna Helmer.
And by "better" she means potatoes that are full of nutrients and taste incredible. For the Helmers that's a prime consideration. All the vegetables and products they grow or raise at the farm were carefully chosen for their superb flavour. If they happen to look attractive on the table too, that's another bonus.
The following is a photo guide to the varieties you can expect to find at the Winter Farmers Market while the supply lasts (hopefully until well into January). Anna and Jennie will be selling, on average, five or six varieties at each market, depending on the crop. Their family recipes and cooking tips are available on the Helmer"s Organic Farm website . A list of what they will be bringing to market each week is also available on the Farmers Market Website .
To start, let's examine why the Pemberton region, often referred to by its nickname of "Spud Valley", is such a superb spot for growing potatoes.