Mission: Local Flour

For the second year in a row, I took part in Urban Grains. It’s a community supported agriculture project, which allows Vancouver-area residents to buy a share in a local grain harvest, and then receive their share in the form of approximately 20kg of flour. In 2009, an early spring meant that the flour was delivered in mid-September. This year, a late spring and cool summer meant that the flour was delayed. This is the fun of local eating – you get your food when it’s ready for you, not when you’re ready for it.

Finally, word came. And so, last Saturday my family loaded up and headed into the wilds of East Vancouver (the more, um, earthy part of the city) in search of our flour. The children vacillated between excitement, boredom, and despair. I grooved on the cool GPS in my iPhone that helped me steer Jon in the right direction. Mostly.

The warehouse where we picked up the flour was huge, and we had a hard time finding the right entrance. And it might have been understandable, all things considered. I’m pretty sure this warehouse has featured in more than one film shot in Vancouver, and not for the scenes with happy endings. Check it out:

The train tracks beside the warehouse

Graffiti on the back of the warehouse where we did pick-up.

Upper floors of the warehouse

This warehouse might have single-handedly given East Vancouver its earthy reputation. Down by the railroad tracks? Check! Covered in graffiti? Check! Old and sort of decrepit? Check!

But all was not lost. I happened upon the smiling face of my friend Alexis, bearing local flour. Things were looking up.

My friend Alexis with her flour

And then I saw this sign. Hooray!

We're in the right spot!

After a brief negotiation with 5-year-old Hannah as to whether or not she could just wait for us in the car (my position: not; happily, she came around) we headed inside. Another sign guided us to the correct room, and bags upon bags of flour. The super-cool Chris was waiting there to help us. By the way, Chris is also known as the Flour Peddler, and he has made an appearance on my blog before, although his face was sadly obscured by a post.

The Flour Peddler
That’s Chris behind the post

Jon and Hannah taking the flour back to the car
Jon and Hannah take the flour back to our car

We got the flour home, and so far it has been used to make pumpkin pie crust, waffles, and (of course) bread. It’s really just flour, but it feels like much more than flour to me. Finding locally-grown wheat is very difficult, but thanks to people like Chris and initiatives like Urban Grains, it’s getting a little easier. Plus, we got to see a run-down warehouse, it’s a win all-around.

My flour!
Our flour arrives home

Have you ever taken part in a community-supported agriculture project? What’s your favourite food to eat locally? And have you seen someone offed on camera in this warehouse? Tell me all about it!

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  1. We participate in a community-supported garden every spring, this is our 5th season. We love it, the food is great and we’ve been lucky to have pretty decent crops almost every season we’ve participated. Our favorite foods from our garden are strawberries, fresh basil and, for my husband and me, brussel sprouts. The kids enjoy visiting the pigs and chickens, playing in the sandbox, helping me do pick-you-own and, on occasion, helping plant future crops.

    The warehouse doesn’t look familiar to me, btw. 🙂
    Earth Muffin’s last post … A 12th anniversary on 10-10-10My Profile

  2. Oh, how I would love to participate in a program such as this one–I didn’t even know that there WERE such things as grain-based CSAs! Off to do some research…:-)
    Kristen’s last post … Little Guys and DollsMy Profile

  3. What a great idea! Love it!!
    Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness)’s last post … Happy Canadian Thanksgiving &amp On the Go WomenMy Profile

  4. The warehouse looks like it was in Fight Club or something…

    Very neat you were able to participate with this program!!
    Sara’s last post … Doing the GauntletMy Profile

  5. Where I lived growing up, community food was the norm, and I wish it was like that now. When I was younger, it was not strange to have local chickens, pigs and beef in your freezer. Eggs and milk were just down the road if you didn’t have that yourself. We bought eggs from the neighbour, and would always stop in for tea and cookies, to have a chat with old Reggie. 🙂

    Cheese and butter was made at local cheese factories. Most of these were bought out by Ault Foods in the late 80’s, and closed down, or turned into tourist stops with artisan cheeses at three times the price. Balderson Cheese is where I used to ride my horse and get ice cream in the summers. They’d hand it out the window to me, and I’d hand them the dollar bills, leaning down to reach! Once a huge factory, it is now no more than a curio and gourmet shop. The cheese isn’t even made there!

    Grain was also as close as down the road, and local places milled a small portion themselves. Fruits and veggies are plentiful here. In my grandmother’s time on the farm where I grew up (she grew up there too) all veggies and fruits from the gardens at home were canned and that was the way you ate all winter. Our root cellar was lined with hundreds off glass mason jars. Hundreds.

    Dad used to tell me about the treat of having oranges and cinnamon sticks in the local grocery at Christmas time, and limes and lemons coming in the Spring. He loved home made lemonade!

    I ate locally a lot when I was growing up, but we moved away from local grains and staples as they became more expensive than what was affordable. Sugar, salt, and pepper were never local. Milk stopped being local, and cheese and milk were cheaper at the grocery store. We all got busy with jobs and life, and canning just wasn’t efficient anymore.

    I want to go back to that life someday, and eat local, eat fresh, can, and preserve. I want to have chickens, and perhaps some sheep, and maybe even a cow (cue terrified look on husband’s face). I want a big garden, a root cellar to keep a buttload of food for winter, and land to call my own. I want to channel my grandmother on my family’s homestead, I guess you could say.

    Now, its not a way of life though, its a trend, called “homesteading”. It used to be what you had to do. Now its a novelty, a fad, and for some, a concious decision to be healthy that is a lot harder to follow than when it was considered the normal way to keep a home. Boy, do I sound sentimental! 🙂

    As for your warehouse, I would think there might be some shots of it in DaVinci’s Inquest… it looks seedy enough 😛
    Caroline’s last post … Saying Goodbye to Mustang SabbyMy Profile

  6. I’m taking part in a flour cooperative this year as well, not Urban Grains, but still fabulous. We get our flour this weekend – very exciting.

    But I must protest your depiction of East Van. The part you were in was definitely earthy, but most of East Van is lovely and filled with young families. Just sayin’.
    Annemarie’s last post … rain- rain- here to stayMy Profile

  7. It seems to me that the quality of your flour is also worthy of mentioning. Rye! Different kinds of wheat (I think, I can’t read the small print)! I’d also drive into the wilds of East Vancouver for it!
    Francesca’s last post … Corner View greenMy Profile

  8. That is totally awesome! I am jealous of the ability to get the local stuff. And the adventure is all the better!
    *pol’s last post … A Wonderful BreakMy Profile

  9. Love your photos! And the cool weather makes me want to do some baking!

    I have yet to find a CSA within a reasonable distance. We have a Farmers market on Saturday right around the corner, but its not the best, and only 1 organic farmer. 🙁
    The other markets require a hike, and not sure they’re any better in terms of organic produce… sometimes its a bummer living in a very “mainstream” area.
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Have a Magical DayMy Profile

  10. I wonder if Victoria has locally-made flour. I should look into it. What an awesome thing! I’m going to be getting some local milk in the New Year and I am really excited about that.
    Melodie’s last post … Finding Balance Amidst ChangeMy Profile

  11. That is wonderful that you have this available to you! Flour is one of the few things I have to get at the market, but I make myself feel a little better since King Arthur flour is milled pretty close to home. When we find our forever farm, we hope to grow our own wheat.

    Right now, we grow most of our fruits & veggies from May-October, and have our laying hens, so we’re very lucky with all of that. Our favorite other thing to buy locally is meat & cheese from a couple of local farms. We even have a bison farm nearby!
    Michelle’s last post … 10 More Thrifty TreasuresMy Profile

  12. This sounds great!

    Sadly, I think I’m going to cancel our CSA subscription for the winter. The fruit was fabulous all summer, but we’ve gotten a few boxes in a row where half the produce is spoilt when it arrives.
    Lady M’s last post … TiredMy Profile

  13. I’d love to be near a CSA, but we don’t even have farmers’ market in our city. There is one in a neighboring city, but the hour-long commute to (and then from) make it impractical.

    We live in a fairly barren region, so local agriculture is limited to onions, peppers, melons, and the like. I really enjoy locally-grown tomatoes when i can find them. And during season, I buy locally-grown fruit when possible.

    I’d like to find a source for fresh eggs & raw milk, but haven’t done so yet. Although we don’t buy a lot, we found a meat market that has locally-sourced beef and the difference between their ground beef and what you get at the supermarket is like night vs. day. Best of all, their prices are only a smidge higher than the supermarket’s and I really like giving my business to a family-owned business.
    Rob O.’s last post … When Life Gives You Trees- Make FirewoodMy Profile

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  1. […] Which is a lovely, vibrant part of East Vancouver, and not really earthy at all (cough Annemarie cough). Since my 5-year-old daughter Hannah considers herself to be a great artist, I […]

  2. […] I started looking for flour made from grain that was grown here in the Vancouver area. Eventually, I found it. Once I did, flour was once again simple. I just had to make an annual trip to pick up my share, […]

  3. […] can visit a sketchy warehouse and leave with bags of local flour, because we value sustainable food […]

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