By Kathy Mak
At the entrance of Lepp Farm Market, you’re greeted with heaps of fresh produce. Initially, you may get the impression that this is a convenient food shop, located at the crossroads of Clayburn Road and the Abbotsford Mission Highway. However, Lepp Farm Market is unexpectedly much more than just a grocery store. The family-owned and operated market is the natural union of Rob Lepp’s farming expertise and Charlotte Lepp’s foodie flare. Together, their focus is on sharing fresh farm direct products and local food experiences.
One would be hard-pressed to find a couple that is more passionate about farm-to-table goodness than Rob and Charlotte Lepp. The duo brings together a variety of elements to achieve a quality, locally grown, field-to-fork environment all on its own. Their love for farmed products is rooted in their families, both sides farming in the Fraser Valley since 1948 raising cattle, hogs, poultry, and growing fruits and vegetables. Their vision — to share locally grown food directly and year-round with consumers in the community — took shape from a side-of-the-road trailer, and later a shack, selling sweet summer corn. As a result, in 2009, Lepp Farm Market opened its doors and quickly became a popular food destination for locals and visitors. “The trend of buying locally was becoming very popular. We wanted to connect our community with as many locally grown and produced items as possible,” says Charlotte. “I love the overwhelming support of local farming and agriculture in the Lower Mainland. People are very interested in knowing where their food comes from and are willing to seek it out.”
Farm markets have become something of a cliché, often used to refer to almost any store selling local products. However, several things really distinguish Lepp Farm Market from other farm markets in the valley. For starters, Lepp Farm Market is unique in that they feature products grown or raised on their own farms, from premium Black Angus beef on their ranch in Cache Creek, and fruits and vegetables on their Okanagan fields and orchards, to pork and poultry on their farm in Abbotsford. “We are truly a “farm to table” shop, where you can actually speak to the farmer,” says Charlotte. In fact, the Market — totally about 3200 square feet – occupies a corner of their 40 acres of farmland in Abbotsford.
Rob ensures that the beef, pork and free-run poultry are ethically raised on their farms free of additional growth hormones or antibiotics, plus fed a vegetarian diet, with no animal by-products. The Lepp Family’s own in-house skilled butchers, including their son Jason, prepare a wide selection of the fresh cuts, handcrafted deli meats and sausages. They even have their on-site smokehouse! And, when it comes to products that they don’t raise or grow, the Market tries to source products from other local producers and food artisans. “As our space is very limited, we only carry products that complement our fresh meats – things you need to cook dinner, no processed or pre-packaged foods,” Charlotte says.
For her part, Charlotte does what she loves best – inspiring farm fresh flavours and gastronomic, wholesome food experiences. A professed foodie, Charlotte channels her love of home-made delicious food, using local ingredients, through the Market’s in-house eatery – The Farmer’s Table Café. Red Seal Chef Nick and his culinary team are responsible for the wonderful house-made-from-scratch signature specialities served at the Cafe, but various dishes are based on classic Lepp family recipes. “The most popular soup is Mulligatawny, which was a family favorite,” says Charlotte. “Since our chef is Italian and he didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like, I kept bringing the soup to my mother to taste and critique. We finally got it right. The Farmer Brownies is a recipe that I sourced before I was even married, and was one of the first sweets in the cafe. It’s been my son’s birthday cake for the last 25 years, and he even used it as his wedding cake.”
Charlotte likes to refer to the Market as “gourmet farm market”. “We are passionate about providing products to our customers that they can use to create healthy, home-cooked foods”, says Charlotte. Beyond providing original products and authentic meals, Lepp Farm Market also offers seasonal, cooking classes in the evenings at the Market with some of the top and most celebrated chefs in the Lower Mainland, including Chef Trevor Bird and Chef David Robertson. “I think people really love the idea of home cooking, but many were not taught at home and the task seems daunting so I wanted the cooking classes to be one avenue for us to use to teach people. We are finding that the new generation of cooks are very interested in getting back to the basics, so this spring we are offering classes on canning, fermenting, as well as making cheese, pasta, sushi and sausages. There’s also a 4-part series on pig butchery,” Charlotte says.
Some cooking classes are demonstration-style (maximum of 24 participants) while others are hands-on classes (smaller in size). Their classes run from September to June and are 2-3 hours in length. “The cooking classes are fun and entertaining, and you get to eat everything the chef prepares so you basically are fed a whole meal. They make for a great date night – someone cooks for you and entertains you! Or people come in groups to celebrate. The hands-on classes are definitely more about teaching and participating, but we still like to make them a special evening,” says Charlotte.
With a unique combination of offerings, it’s no surprise that Lepp Farm Market won Canadian Independent Grocer of the Year Award of Merit in 2015. Their farm-to-table products, made in-house cuisine, string of well-chosen cooking classes and genuine farm family hospitality are special. “Everything about us is in this Farm Market,” says Charlotte. And, they stand behind their belief that life and food is “better when shared”. Discover it for yourself and visit Lepp Farm Market soon.
Lepp Farm Market
33955 Clayburn Road