Pemberton is a hotbed for produce, supplying restaurants and farmers markets in B.C. as far south as Vancouver, and the marquee farm in this fertile, mountain-framed town is North Arm Farm. Jordan Sturdy, who also works as the Mayor of Pemberton, and for 35 days every winter, a Whistler Blackcomb bought the land with wife Trish in 1991 on the north arm of the Lillooet River Channel.
The couple initially started farming corn in the mid ’90s, prompted by a suggestion from a retiring farmer in town. They soon added an acre of raspberries, learned as they farmed and now produce 45 acres of vegetables, berries, pumpkins and of course potatoes, since the region is so prized for potatoes.
The Sturdys always utilized sustainable farming practices, but they ultimately felt it was necessary to become certified organic. How come? “I got tired of talking about it,” said Sturdy,” and “It became clear that certain people weren’t willing to buy it.” They filled out paperwork and paying the large fees to stay certified, which is based on a percentage of sales. Now that they’re listed on the COABC website, North Arm Farm has received additional opportunities.
The Sturdys have become well known in the culinary community. They supply top local chefs and even have the ability to produce specialized produce. For example, for West chef David Gunawan, they grew celtuce, a stem lettuce that’s prized for the stalk, and supplied classic French chef Roland Pfaff with chrone, a root vegetable that Jordan Sturdy said “look a little like the Michelin tire man” and require arduous cleaning with baking soda and water. North Arm Farm also hosts a series of four Araxi longtable dinners in the summer, plus Outstanding in the Field.
Jordan Sturdy said Pemberton now features a lot more commuters to Whistler than in the old days. “It used to be that you could lie down in the middle of the road in the winter,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that now.”
B.C. experienced one of their hardest winters in years, with snow, cold and rainfall continuing several weeks later than expected. As a result, the farm store shelves were bare and fields were sparse.
The Pony is a restaurant in Pemberton from Neil Harrison and chef Alex Stoll that recently took over on-site food prep. North Arm also sells vegetables, local cheeses, Sara’s old fashioned ice cream and chicken feed. [Fun Fact: The kitchen previously housed a calving barn, so it’s sloped.] We were treated to lunch on the patio, facing fields.
North Arm and the Sturdys provided a valuable visit to their farm, sharing a memorable meal and demonstrating a clear link to how premium produce enters our food chain.
Note: My meal at North Arm Farm was complimentary, as part of a tour hosted by Tourism Whistler.