Ashley Taylor of Valley Vitals with one of her laying chickens- Juliette, a production red. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Getting to know you local producers: Valley Vitals

The Free Press has a chat with local food producer Ashley Taylor of Valley Vitals

A few years ago, Valley Vitals owner Ashley Taylor wanted to find out what she could do to help combat climate change, and after a trip to Salt Spring Island and learning about permaculture, the idea that would eventually become Valley Vitals was born.

“I struggled with what there was I could actually do about climate change,” she said.

“It seemed like food waste was something I could address with a small investment to get this business started (and) in my second season there was 35,000 pounds of food waste that I processed.”

Composting and waste food processing was where it started – but Taylor now raises chickens for meat and eggs, and produces seasonal fruit and vegetables that she has a loyal customer base for – especially given the quality of eggs her hens produce.

“The quality of a free range hen … one that has a varied diet and can move around – most people can taste the difference in the eggs,” she said.

For now, Taylor offers poultry, eggs and fresh produce, with production at the behest of the seasons and what she’s focused on. With a market garden in Fernie, home base in Elko and plans for a new site in Jaffray – things can move around a bit.

“This year will be mostly market garden, I will have eggs and meat birds for sale but mostly produce,” she said.

Taylor said her personal journey towards being a food producer was founded on her goals to produce 75 per cent of her own food year-round, though that was a challenge.

“I think I’m at about 50 per cent in the summer, and that takes a lot of work.

“There’s been a lot of people that are really looking to purchase local and have a closer relationship with farmers. Its really good for me because I get that direct feedback – say the carrots had become woody and I didn’t notice right away, it’s not customers complaining online, they’re letting me know the next time I drop off a food basket.”

Taylor said that having a closer relationship with food and how it came to be on your table was part of a sustainable lifestyle – including raising your own animals for meat.

“Being able to produce your food year round and being a vegan is playing on hard mode – I do think that is the highest path and the most honorable thing, but living in a northern climate, for me to be sustainable, its using animals in my food production system. That has been a journey in itself- I did not grow up on a farm, I did not grow up gardening, so having that relationship with my food is something I really value.”

For Taylor, being a part of a sustainable food producing community was a big part of what keeps her going. “Its my passion – it’s what gets me up in the morning.”

Fresh produce produced by Valley Vitals is heavy on the greens with lots of lettuce and salad, spinach, carrots, bok choi, zucchini, patty-pan and tomatoes – but it’s all up to the seasons. Taylor’s egg laying hens also produce up to 10 dozen eggs a week.

This year, Taylor will be taking Valley Vitals to the Mountain Market in Fernie, and her produce will also be available at the Local Store. For now, those that are interested in purchasing locally-produced vegetables, eggs and chicken can reach out to her direct through her Facebook page – Valley Vitals Fernie.

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