Next generation of family farmer planting seeds in Surrey
Tucked amid rows of residential housing, industrial parks and the congestion of King George Boulevard lies an urban oasis for lovers of organic, locally grown food.
Zaklan Heritage Farm is providing environmentally friendly produce thanks to the longtime Surrey family's next generation of farmer.
Rather than sell the land where the Zaklan family has been cultivating food since 1928 – although the 10-acre property, at 132 Street and 84 Avenue is likely worth millions – current owner George Zaklan is allowing his nephew Doug's farming ambitions to take root.
The younger Zaklan, recently graduated from UBC after taking courses in sustainable farming, is putting his education experience and value system to the test by operating a small scale farm. Doug Zaklan sees his endeavour as his small part in building a better world and giving back to the community.
"Local small scale farms are such a beautiful thing, they provide such a beautiful product, and they are the best thing for the community," he says.
According to Statistics Canada, B.C. is home to the highest average age for farmers in the country – 57 – and needs to attract younger generations to the profession. But the high cost of living and land in the Lower Mainland does not make the prospect very lucrative.
In fact, out of Zaklan's graduating class, he is the only one who is farming locally – a benefit of having available farm land in his family.
From spring through fall, Zaklan's farm produces a wide variety of food, ranging from radishes to zucchini, fruits such as raspberries and plums, and hazelnuts and herbs.
Zaklan says locally grown food, often not as pretty as the waxed, glossy and irradiated produce found at major grocery outlets, is making a comeback as people become more aware of the benefits of buying closer to home.
"At the grocery store, we are buying with our eyes. We buy what looks like a plump tomato. I am growing a tomato that is superior in nutrition," says Zaklan.
In Zaklan's view, knowing where and how your food is grown is important, as the quality of the soil and pesticides that are used have a direct impact on the quality of food people put in their mouths.
He believes that when people pick through the produce and select only the best-looking items, this creates a demand for perfect-looking produce. But when food is not grown locally, it needs to be altered – with irradiation, pesticides and waxing – to stop the decaying process during transport.
"I think people are starting to realize that that apple that looks perfect on the outside... on different levels it is not a good thing."
Zaklan's crops can be bought directly from his farm 1-5 p.m. on Sundays, or at Sundog Vegetables' booth at the Surrey Urban Farmers Market, located at the North Surrey Recreation Centre courtyard, which runs throughout the summer and fall, Wednesdays from 1-6 p.m.
"It's really rewarding when you hear people say how much they enjoy what you've grown," Zaklan says.
More information on the Zaklan Heritage Farm can be found on Facebook and at www.zaklanheritagefarm.com