Falconglen Organic Blueberry Farm
March 26, 2019
What do you do when you have a successful design career on the go and a 70-acre farm in Langley that has never actually been farmed? You drop everything and become an organic blueberry farmer, of course. Well, you do if you’re Paul Falcon, founder of Falconglen Organic Blueberry Farm in Langley’s Glen Valley.
Back in 2011, with an industrial design degree from Emily Carr in hand, Paul was living and working in downtown Vancouver when he started thinking about how to make better use of the land in Langley that had been in his family for four generations.
Until then, the land had mostly been used for grazing – expansive pastures once leased out to a dairy farmer. Paul did a bit of digging, so to speak, and quickly realized the land’s potential.
“This is some of the most fertile land that you can find in BC,” Paul says. “So it was worth doing something more than simply growing pasture grass.”
He soon discovered that one of his favourite fruits, blueberries, would fare well in this kind of soil and climate, and so he sought the advice of other farmers, who told him to that the standard practice was to get rid of pasture grass by spraying with herbicides.
“I looked at other fields that had done that and it just didn’t sit right with me,” he says. “[Organic] costs a little bit more and it isn’t easier, but at the same time it felt better to me. It’s important to respect the land instead of just dumping a whole bunch of herbicides into the soil where they can stay for many years.” He settled on using hand-weeding and mowing as a more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to spraying.
But what does a designer know about organic blueberry farming? To Paul, it’s not so much about what you do, but how you do it. And that’s where his design background has come in handy. Well that, and the farm’s standout branding and packaging.
“I guess you could say I’m kind of a new farmer. The way I’m approaching it is very much like you approach design. It’s a lot about problem solving when things go sideways or when you get thrown a curveball one way or another — looking at processes, looking at ways to continually improve things.”
It wasn’t enough for Paul to decide to grow blueberries. He soon realized he had to decide which varieties of blueberries to grow. There are dozens of them, and new varieties keep evolving. Different varieties produce berries of different sizes and flavours, and they grow best at different parts of the season.
Paul decided on four types – Duke, Draper, Liberty and Chandler – which are known for their flavour and berry size and allow him to max out Langley’s long growing season from late June to mid-September. Despite some extreme temperatures early this season, Paul’s berries are doing just fine thanks to the cooling effect of the Fraser River, which runs right alongside the property.
This microclimate isn’t the only perk that comes with farming in Langley.
“I think that Langley is very supportive of local farming and people here understand that there is a value to having our own secure local food sources, especially for organic,” Paul says. “Just getting to meet people at the roadside stand is always a nice thing. People drive up from the city, to have a nice day in the country. There’s a lot to see and do in Langley. It’s a very picturesque part of BC in terms of the Glen Valley and alongside the Fraser River.”
Paul sells his berries at a roadside stand near the farm on Saturdays and Sundays, but they’re also available in many supermarket locations throughout the Lower Mainland. To Paul, fresh is best, even if you’re all about frozen berries for smoothies.
“Berries will last a long time when they’re frozen, at least two years,” he says. “You might as well stock up on good local berries, rather than looking at imported ones in the off-season that never have the kind of flavour and quality that you get here locally.”
To choose the best berries in the bin, it’s all about the “bloom.” The bloom is the powdery blue/white coating you see on some blueberries. “That means that the berries weren’t handled excessively,” Paul explains. “If they’re a very dark blue polished look, or if they’re wet, then it means the berries were roughly handled or overhanded.”
To ensure that kind of quality, the pickers at Falconglen work carefully and precisely. “We don’t pick in the rain so that we make sure the berries are as pristine as possible when they get picked and sorted. We do everything by hand. It’s all hand picked and all hand sorted and hand packed. Even our small baskets are packed individually. We have eyes on them with every box. That’s to ensure we have the best quality going into every package.”
Paul has his sights set on the next phase of expanding the farm operation. He hopes to incorporate an agritourism branch of the business, and there’s even an on-site organic brewery in the plans. Blueberry beer, anyone?
In the meantime, he’ll just keep growing – and eating – more and more blueberries. “I don’t think I could get sick of them,” he laughs. “The nice thing is I love blueberries, and that’s why I was so happy my farm is able to grow such nice ones.”
Visit the farm Monday to Friday
from 10AM–4PM* (by appointment only from September to June).
Stop by the farm stand on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 and 4 at 8955 264th St., Langley, at the corner of 264th St. and 88th Ave. (late June to mid-September)
Place an order online for pickup in Vancouver or Langley
Images courtesy of Falconglen Organic Blueberry Farms.