Hills Foods and Shaw Family Farms hosted a barbecue for Vancouver's top chefs and food company executives at Shaw's Aldergrove farm on Monday (Sept. 28). The farm is operated by the Shaw family

All-natural farm takes bite out of city market

Aldergrove farm has found a profitable niche in providing a "close to home" fresh lamb and pork to high-end restaurants and meat shops

An Aldergrove farm has found a profitable niche in providing a “close to home” fresh lamb and pork to high-end restaurants and meat shops in the Whistler-Vancouver region.

Jamie Shaw is carrying on the family tradition established by his late father Ron in 1967, who started the Shaw Family Farm in Willoughby. The farm raised mostly cattle, but after relocating to Aldergrove in 1998 the family diversified, first in raising lambs and sheep, then wild boars and heritage pigs.

Ron passed away almost 11 years ago, but his wife Darlene remains very active in working on the farm. Jamie, now aged 46, still has a day job but has consistently and methodically expanded the farm, and has also brought his wife Serena and daughter Brooklyn into the day-to-day operations.

“We started small. I have 28 acres here but I also lease a total of 150 acres,” said Jamie.

“I raise about 200 pigs and 200 lambs a year, but my goal is 600 of each. They’re all naturally raised on pasture, and we feed them fruits and vegetables — peppers and cukes, apples — so we raise happy pigs.”

There are similar farm operations elsewhere in B.C. but it’s the only one of its type in the Lower Mainland, which has made the farm’s products highly desirable in the Vancouver-Whistler region. The Shaw family’s pork and lamb are truly “100 mile diet” products.

“You can tell it’s special when you bite into it,” said Mark Hills, who for the past couple of years has been marketing the farm’s products through his Hills Foods company.

“The price point is higher but it’s the only free-range lamb in the Fraser Valley and appeals to those who want it as close to home as possible.”

Hills started out in the meat business 28 years ago “before buffalo and venison became mainstream” and has built it up to a 12,000 square foot distribution centre in Coquitlam today.

“We provide a unique finished product and can do custom work,” said Hills. “We have 26 employees, including meat cutters, so we can provide burgers, sliders and so on. We can also sell whole carcasses, or split them, depending on what the buyers need.”

On Monday, Sept. 28, under a beautiful Indian summer sun, Hills Foods hosted a outdoor barbecue for Vancouver’s top chefs and food company executives at Shaw Family Farms in Aldergrove, featuring the local, naturally raised pork and lamb from the farm. Local wines and beers were also offered by Domaine de Chaberton and Parallel 49 Brewers.

Several dozen guests were also treated to a full tour of the farm.

“All pigs and lambs are raised free-range outside and in a hormone-free and stress-free environment, creating a superior product that leaves you wanting more,” said Jamie Shaw.

All lambs and pigs at Shaw Family Farms are raised free-range on pasture in a stress-free and hormone-free environment and fed a variety of fruits and vegetables in addition to grain supplements.