The Power of Three

Farm, food and wine come together in a unique way at Tria…

“As a cook, there is so much for me here,” says Kathy Jerritt at Naure’s Way Farm.  “There’s everything that comes fresh from the ocean; there are the forests which give us mushrooms and wild berries.  So much can grow here.  The coastal climate can produce outrageous things.”

“As a cook, there is so much for me here,” says Kathy Jerritt at Naure’s Way Farm. “There’s everything that comes fresh from the ocean; there are the forests which give us mushrooms and wild berries. So much can grow here. The coastal climate can produce outrageous things.”

Photo by Photo by Boomer Jerritt

Aesthetics are important to her, but so is context. If Limousin was going to farm, she wanted to understand what that meant. She began to study avidly. She learned about the rate at which farm land is being lost, and about the aging of farmers, about the deleterious effects of modern ‘factory farms,’ about the inability of fertile regions to supply their own food source, and about the toxic chemical load in much of the food we eat.

“If people knew all this stuff, they’d all pull up their lawns and start growing their own vegetables,” she says. She became a passionate organic farmer and educator, not only running Nature’s Way but also teaching sustainable gardening at North Island College.
In the meantime, her husband Ehrler had a long-held dream of having a vineyard. With Nature’s Way providing a bountiful annual crop of blueberries and raspberries, he began to explore fruit wine as an option.

But they needed a third ingredient in order to become Tria. And that was Jerritt.

Jerritt, who first moved to the Comox Valley in 1993, completed her formal culinary training at the prestigious Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island. After graduating, she set out to see—and taste—the world. She’s worked and travelled throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia and North America, happily absorbing a wealth of information about global cuisines, food traditions and cooking techniques.

Returning to Canada in 2007 from a stint in India, Jerritt became Executive Chef at Coastal Trek Health and Fitness Resort on Forbidden Plateau. This provided the chance to get to know local farmers and to focus on ingredients grown and produced in the Comox Valley.

Both experiences—eating and cooking her way around the world on the one hand, and exploring the potential of a local cuisine on the other—inspired Jerritt and led her to imagine Tria.

“There are places all over Europe we visited where people make their own wines, jams, olive oil, and you can go taste them,” she says. Each product is unique, reflecting regional differences in soil, water, climate and custom, and almost always of amazing quality, she adds.

As well, she found many places around the world where meals were always based on what was available there and then. “Some of the very best food I had was from what people had grown in their own backyard.”

More inspiration came from a visit to Duncan’s Fairburn Farms, which bills itself as a culinary retreat and guesthouse. “When I got back, I was picking stuff up from Marla for Coastal Trek—she was one of our suppliers and I’d got to know her—and I was telling her about my weekend in Duncan. And she said—I remember it so well—she said, ‘Do you think something like that would work here in the Comox Valley?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’” says Jerritt.

Limousin jumps in to continue the story: “But then you said, ‘I would love to have a farm kitchen but probably never will be able to.’ Remember?”
“Yeah, I totally remember,” says Jerritt, eyes sparkling.

Limousin continues: “And you asked, ‘Could that really work?’ We decided to think about it for a few days, but then we phoned each other later that night to talk about it. We both said, ‘Oh my god, this would work.’ When was that? Last May?”

“April. It was last April,” says Jerritt.

“I couldn’t sleep that night, and then the next day and the next I was so excited by the idea,” says Limousin.

As they talk about their project both Jerritt and Limousin have a vibrancy and focus that tells me they are doing exactly what they should be doing in life.

“It’s pretty slick,” says Jerritt. “I love to cook and I get to cook. I love to teach and I get to do that. I also love to work by myself in the kitchen and that’s where the value-added products come in. I get all the things I love to do, all rolled into one.

“Even when I started culinary school I knew I didn’t want to own a restaurant. In a restaurant you’re in the back like a faceless person. You can’t see and talk to the people you’re creating food for,” she says.

Jerritt loves the creative challenge of designing menus based on what is growing; she loves the freshness and flavor; she loves that guests see, smell and taste the connection between field and table.

“I had a freshly-picked garlic bulb in my hand the other day and there was someone here who had no idea what it was,” she says. “They didn’t know what it looked like in the ground. It’s super exciting for me to be in a position to show people things like that.”

Jerritt and Limousin say the Comox Valley is emphatically the best place for their project. “There is nowhere else I can imagine doing this—and I have been to lots of spectacular places,” says Jerritt.

“As a cook, there is so much for me here,” she adds. “There’s everything that comes fresh from the ocean; there are the forests which give us mushrooms and wild berries. So much can grow here. The coastal climate can produce outrageous things.

“I also love the First Nations history of this place. People say they go to Europe for history but there is a fascinating history right here,” says Jerritt.

“And the people…oh, man!”

“The people are amazing,” agrees Limousin, in case I don’t understand the implications of the ‘Oh, man.’ (I assume it meant ‘so great I can’t even find words for it.’) “When we first started here [with Nature’s Way], we were embraced by the farming community. We received so much help and learned so much.”

The response to Tria’s first season has also been supportive. Jerritt, who works the crepe-making griddles at the Farmers’ Market, has nothing but superlatives for her customers. “They are so friendly and appreciative, and so patient.” Anyone who has been to the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market knows that patience is a necessary quality at this busy event, and the crepe stand is no exception. Jerritt has been selling four times as many crepes as she and Limousin expected, and although they’ve added an extra crepe griddle, they still end up with line-ups.

And yet the customers don’t mind, says Jerritt. “There was a guy in line who started complaining about the wait. And this woman turned to him and said, ‘Well, if you want speed, go back to the city.’ That’s how people are here; it’s great.”

Although Tria’s roots are, literally, in the earth, the project is very much about community.

“Eating good food and drinking good wine is not something you usually do by yourself,” Jerritt says. “There’s a strong communal aspect. Many people are lacking a sense of community and you can get that from cooking, eating and drinking together. And supporting local food gives people something to rally around. Not only does it sustain the local economy, it also gives people a connection.”

Limousin has more to add. The two women let their shared enthusiasms bounce off each other like ping pong balls.

“Also, it connects us to history,” Limousin says, noting that the communal preparation and consumption of food and wine has been bringing people together for millennia. “It’s ancient; it’s in our heritage. They first farmed grapes in Ancient Greece. It’s a tradition that is thousands of years old. You’ve got these ancient arts that have been preserved for hundreds and thousands of years, getting passed from generation to generation, and we’re doing it the same way.”

Pong! The ball goes back to Jerritt. “Oh yes,” she says. “One reason I went into the culinary field is that it’s a craft. I can stand in the kitchen preparing something and know that 300 years ago someone was doing the same thing. That’s a really strong connection.”

Ping! Back to Limousin: “And also, the harvesting and growing of food connects me to my sisters all around the world who are pulling, seeding, watering and weeding. We connect through the act of doing it. It’s very powerful.”

Farm. Food. Wine. Three elements that for millennia have connected humans to each other, and humans to nature, connect at Tria, thanks to the vision and hard work of Limousin, Jerritt, Ehrler, and their supportive community. The road from field to plate is short, and very inviting, at Tria.

On August 6, Tria will hold its first full moon feast. In the fall Tria is looking forward to its first custom dining clients, a local book club planning an annual celebration, and to the inauguration of its cooking classes.

The wine tasting room is now open daily from 1-6pm and welcomes drop-in visitors.

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