We (and 148 other lovers of fine food) put our money where our mouths were this past Sunday, ponied up a hundred bucks apiece and attended one of the most delightful and uplifting events to be found on the Island. This week’s post is a little off-track for us, but because of the importance of what happened at Dragonfly Farm in the Cowichan Valley on Sunday evening we feel very strongly that it is worth reporting on.
The event that we attended originally caught my eye because it was a long table dinner organized by the Island Chefs’ Collaborative. The promise of a reception and five courses of fine dining (paired with local wines and ciders) prepared by some of the Duncan-area’s most celebrated chefs was just too much to pass up. Further investigation, however, convinced us that the Freedom to Farm dinner was even more important than it first appeared. It was being staged to help Dragonfly Farm owners Dan and Regan Ferguson defray some of the $43,000 in legal costs that were racked up after neighbours across the road complained about the noise from the Ferguson’s farm animals. After several years of attempting to placate the neighbours the Fergusons eventually ended up in front of the Farm Industry Review Board, arguing their case under the ‘Right To Farm Act.’ Happily for the Fergusons and the concept of sustainable farming on the Island, Dragonfly Farm came out the winner of the long-running tussle, setting a precedent that will, hopefully, convince those who want to ‘live in the country’ that such a dream does not necessarily include complete peace and quiet, 24/7.
The Ferguson operation is not large or fancy – it is a small family-run integrated organic farm nestled into what appears to be a pretty (but marginal) 33 acres. The property has been in the family since the 1960s and, like the property belonging to the complaining neighbours, is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The Fergusons raise a mix of livestock and organic greens, which are sold to Island restaurants – which is where the Island Chefs’ Collaborative comes in.
The ICC is comprised of restaurant industry folks who want to help encourage a local and sustainable food system on Vancouver Island. Fund-raising efforts such as the long table dinners help finance micro-loans and grants for farmers, harvesters and processors who are contributing to the locally-produced food scene. So in that respect our writing about this particular dinner, while perhaps not what our readers have come to expect, does fall within our genre in that what the ICC does helps to ensure that those of us who love fine food will be able to continue to enjoy it here on the Island. But, enough on the ‘enlightenment’ (or, if you must, the ‘lecture’), and on to the details of this wonderful evening.
The Freedom to Farm dinner involved hundreds of organizational and volunteer hours, from the six talented chefs (Ian Blom of Merridale Cider and Bistro, Bradford Boisvert of Amusé on the Vineyard, Dan Hudson of Hudson’s on First, Brock Windsor of Stone Soup Inn, Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm and Fatima DaSilva, Bistro 161 and Vinoteca) to the volunteers who showed up to serve all those courses, to the McCandless Family Band, who provide toe-tapping music throughout the evening. Wines and cider were contributed for each and every course thanks to Rocky Creek, Cherry Point, Blue Grouse, Averill Creek, Vignetti Zanatta and Merridale Cidery. We were fortunate, too in that the weather Gods smiled on us with a perfect Indian Summer evening that enhanced the candle-lit outdoor ambiance, the two long, white linen-draped tables, the lovely-but-simple table décor and the pleasure of sharing an evening with folks from all walks of life, farmers to ‘beautiful people.’
And the food…well, the food! Spectacular, in every respect, from the confit of Drangonfly guinea fowl, to the Dragonfly Farm tomatoes four ways, to the corn and lobster mushroom soup, the alder-smoked Fanny Bay oysters, pasture-raised beef moussaka with chanterelles and porcini béchamel, right down to the rum spice cake with lemon-roasted apples (there was a great story behind those apples that garnered much laughter!) with ginger caramel sauce and cardamom ice cream. The entire meal was beyond superb, offering up the best that the Island has to offer. Each of the chefs introduced the course that they had created, adding to the enjoyment of the evening.
If you ever have an opportunity to attend an ICC event, grab at it! Not only will you experience some of the very best food to be had anywhere, you will be supporting great causes that, in the long haul, benefit all of us. Can there be any better way to spend your money?
Further information on the Island Chefs’ Collaborative can be found at their website at:
Probably the best way to keep abreast of coming events is via their Facebook page at