Featuring: Danielle Guichon, Backroads Family Farm Market.
"We’ve lived here our whole lives and we love this community! As fifth generation local farmers, we couldn’t imagine doing this anywhere else!"
What started with door-to-door corn sales and roadside produce stands has blossomed into a full-fledged business for two sisters devoted to not only growing their family business but also improving South Delta. Danielle and Alicia Guichon of Backroads Family Farm Market grew up in a farming family, and are now in the business of supporting local food growers with their produce and specialty grocery store, which opened for its eighth season in May 2021. While their retail-centred approach to farming is in its infancy, the sisters come from a long line of farmers dating back to 1881, when two brothers from France settled on Canadian soil. With their great-great-great-grandfather laying roots in Ladner while his brother farmed Merritt, the fifth-generation farmers are heavily invested in BC agriculture. They grow what produces well on their five acres in Ladner and round out their offerings with an abundance of goods from neighbouring South Delta farms. Keeping it local is an integral part of their business, as is strengthening the connection between farmers and shoppers. From land Danielle describes as “their warm bubble just outside of sunny Tsawwassen,” they are taking advantage of grade-A clay-based soil and providing good food for their family and yours. After connecting with Danielle and hearing about the corn, potatoes, swiss chard, garlic, herbs, cucumber, pumpkins and various other squash on offer, we were starving for their phytonutrient variety, not to mention excited to learn more about how food is the most meaningful way of connecting with your neighbours.
Tell us how Backroads Family Farm Market started.
We opened in June 2014, but we've been selling produce, including corn door-to-door, since we were kids! That was kind of how we got started. Every summer we sold corn on the side of Arthur Drive; eventually we brought more items to our roadside stand, so people started to get used to us being there all the time. Once we had about 10 items we had a little business going. We got a permanent spot in the Ladner Village Market in 2001, so this will be our 20th year there, which is just wild! We started with one tent and about five vegetables; we’d sit there and read while we worked. Now, we have two tents, and we don't take chairs because we don't have time to sit! Alicia and I went to school for different things—Alicia was in education, and I was in two different programs: marketing/business and fashion merchandising—but we’ve always come back to our farming roots. With the success of our stand and the market, a bigger idea was born—it was just a matter of where the heck can we do this? Our idea finally came to fruition in 2013, when we secured a long-term lease on TFN, where our store is now; that was when we knew that we could do something a bit more substantial. The stand there was built in the 1980s; my family had a produce market called Deltaport Farms that they ran through the 80s and 90s, but it was vacant for about 18 years before we decided that this was our chance to revamp it and open. We come from predominantly large-scale farming, but my sister and I decided to do small-scale farming and go retail. We now sell over 200 items in our store, including milk and bread and other snacks: chips and honey and jams and all that kind of delicious stuff. So we’ve added a whole bunch of really cool, local grocery items to our produce selection. When we're choosing the brands we work with, we’re very selective; our first criteria is where they operate from and what their vision is.
Why is it important for you to grow local food and have sustainable options within South Delta?
Because I grew up eating this stuff! Alicia and I talk about this all the time, how maybe we took it for granted that Dad always brought home fresh produce. He would trade potatoes for fish...it was always beautiful food, all the time. And we wanted other people to enjoy the bounty that we’ve enjoyed pretty much our whole lives—and so the concept of Backroads was born: yes, we grow produce, lay hens, and grow an abundance of fresh flowers, but we're also sourcing other Ladner-grown produce and grocery items. Our place is a hub for local produce; everything is sourced as close to home as possible, so if it's not from South Delta, it's coming from Langley or Chilliwack. That’s important for the taste, for our footprint, for everything. We’re very community-minded and want people to connect with their food and their farmers.
Continuing the farming legacy for my family is a beautiful tradition. I feel so lucky to be rooted in this place and have such strong feelings—I can't really describe it other than to say that this community means so much to me. That’s why I'm on the Board of Directors of the Delta Chamber and the LBA, and Alicia’s on the Delta Council. We care so much about this community and its future. So, yes, we have our little business, but we've also really taken it upon ourselves to put ourselves out there to help Delta stay as beautiful as it is.
What's it like working with your sister?
It's good! We both have the same goals and want what's best for each other and our futures, but of course we're sisters—we can butt heads, get excited about things, and go from zero-to-100 quickly. But ultimately, we love what we do, and I love that I get to share it with her. And as much as it's my sister and me who own the business, my mom and dad are around all the time, too, so it's truly a family business—big time!
Is there a strong farming community in South Delta?
Yes. The community is very strong in Delta; other friends of mine who farm in Richmond or Cloverdale tell me they wish that they had a farming community like we do. All farmers in Delta have the opportunity to be a part of the Delta Farmers Institute, a group where we can all discuss any issues and voice what’s going on. We’re heavily connected to the city so, for example, if the drainage is not going well, or if there are salt issues in the soil and we need to do trials, we can talk to the right people and find solutions. Delta is just a smaller town; when it comes to farming, everyone pretty much knows everyone, people have borrowed each other's machinery, and there's collaboration. Because we buy from 15 other local farmers or so, we have our finger on the pulse when it comes to how their crops are doing. I think there's a lot of communication and because we’re doing similar yet different things there's room for everybody.
Business has continued to get busier for all farmers in South Delta. I’ll be honest with you; since COVID-19, our traffic has increased like crazy. More people are eating at home. More people understand how important it is to buy locally and to support your local farmers—especially at this time, because imagine going through a pandemic without local food sources? I think people are really waking up and seeing how important it is to be close to your food. We’ve always challenged people to buy local produce and groceries and share the experience with people close to them. Because isn't that what life is all about—sharing the goodness?