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Valley to Shore

Dana Dykema


Photography - HIRO 
Interview - MINA

"Valley to Shore connects you directly with our local farmers - the ones who raise and grow the food that goes straight to your kitchen. We're here to bring the incredible local food from the Fraser Valley to the North Shore, making it easier to access."

-Dana Dykema


Like dedicated farmers who work rain or shine, Dana from Valley to Shore embarks on a weekly journey every Tuesday, rain or shine, throughout the year. Her mission is to deliver the freshest produce from Fraser Valley to the North Shore.

Before 9 AM each Tuesday, Dana sets off from her home in Lynn Valley with her trusty Toyota 4Runner towing a trailer. Her first stop is a small free-range egg farm in Abbotsford. From there, she heads to Local Harvest in Chilliwack, to pick up their Harvest Box, her signature delivery product, bursting with vibrant, organically grown vegetables nurtured through sustainable farming practices. Dana carefully selects and loads each Harvest Box into her trailer, ensuring only the best for her customers. After a quick lunch break, she continues her route to Langley, picking up frozen foods and self-care items from local producers, all while fulfilling orders for nearby customers.

By 2 PM, Dana begins her journey back home, arriving in Lynn Valley by 3 PM. After a quick reunion with her children and a moment to catch her breath, she heads out again at 4:30 PM to local pickup points, delivering orders directly to customers' hands. Her day typically wraps up around 8:30 PM. Every Tuesday, Dana handles this bustling schedule on her own. Why does she do it?

Three years ago, Dana was like any other busy housewife, juggling the responsibilities of raising four children and staying active in her community as a devoted Christian. However, her encounter with Local Harvest completely shifted her perspective on food and community. It sparked a passion within her to connect Fraser Valley farmers with North Shore residents, and she courageously embraced the challenges of becoming a business owner.

For Dana, it's not just about delivering fresh food - it’s about supporting her local community and teaching others the importance of eating with the seasons. "Post-COVID, I've noticed a shift in people's awareness of supporting local. It is concerning when I hear another small farm is closing. Or the land is being taken over for a mall or warehouse," she reflects. VOICE had the privilege of following Dana through her energetic routine, witnessing her commitment to overcoming challenges with unwavering determination. Each delivery is not just a box of produce; it's a testament to her dedication and a reminder of the value of local connections. As Tuesday rolls around again, Valley to Shore continues its journey, driven by Dana's profound passion and commitment to providing direct access to farmer-produced food.

VOICE(V): How did Valley to Shore come about?


Dana(D): Before COVID-19, I never paid much attention to our Fraser Valley or the people growing vegetables there. Gardening wasn't my interest at all. But in the spring of 2021, everything changed when I stumbled upon Local Harvest through an Instagram story. The name intrigued me, so I started following them and exploring their website. What caught my eye was their online Organic No Till Gardening Course, led by Dan, the owner, and Andrew from Terra Flora Organics. It sounded fascinating, and around the same time, I was starting to question why so much of our food in grocery stores isn't locally sourced. One weekend, I convinced my family to visit Local Harvest with me. That visit was a game-changer. Their no-till, pesticide-free produce tasted incredible, unlike anything I'd bought from supermarkets. Right then and there, I decided to sign up for their online course. 

What I love about the gardening course is that it has taught me how to grow in any space, the importance of composting, understanding the soil food web cycle, and maintaining soil health—it's knowledge everyone should have. I became deeply passionate about Local Harvest, regularly visiting to support their mission and taste their amazing produce. I even became an ambassador for their gardening course and helped with Dan's in-person classes when restrictions eased. 

Before diving into organic gardening, my involvement was more modest. I used to sell garlic from local farmers to North Vancouver residents, but I noticed a gap in locally sourced Fraser Valley produce on the North Shore. That's when I approached Dan about starting a Harvest Box service. We tested the idea with a fundraiser for my daughter's Grade 7 class, and the response was positive - 22 families placed orders. In November 2021, what started as a trial became a full-fledged business.


V: How does the delivery service work?


D: Local Harvest products will be picked and delivered to North Vancouver every Tuesday. Ordering is simple: place your order online by Sunday evening. You'll receive an email on Monday evening with pick-up instructions. If you can't pick up your order on Tuesday, we can arrange an alternative day that suits you.


V: What is in the Harvest Box?


D: Typically, I don't know what will be in the Harvest Box until the pick-up day. Local Harvest might give me a heads-up occasionally, but each delivery is a delightful surprise based on what's in season. Embracing seasonal eating and going with the flow is another wonderful aspect of this experience. For everyone who orders a Harvest Box, I send out half a dozen recipe ideas the day after or so, hoping to inspire creative cooking with everything in the box. It's all about enjoying the process of making your meals. If you're looking for a smaller option, we also offer a Taster Box. It includes 4-6 produce items from Local Harvest, a dozen free-range eggs, 1 pork farmer sausage from Tatton Springs Ranch, and a loaf of sourdough bread from Local Harvest Kitchen. It's a chance to sample a variety from some of our favorite farms in the Fraser Valley.


V: Has your family noticed any changes since you started eating locally and seasonally?


D: We make it a priority as a family to sit down and have dinner together as much as possible. We talk about the food, about the farm - it sparks great conversations around the table for us. It's wonderful that our kids can learn where their food comes from. In one of my son's classes, the teacher asked who had eaten a carrot right from the farm, and my son was the only one who raised his hand! It's alarming that their generation might think all food comes from the grocery store.

Eating farmer-direct food has also been beneficial for me physically and mentally. I used to struggle with low ferritin and tried taking supplements, but I'm not good at remembering to take them regularly. The only change I made to my diet was eating locally and nutrient-dense food from Local Harvest, and my ferritin levels improved. That was a big deal for me because it meant I didn't experience those afternoon crashes that used to slow me down.


V: Do your kids enjoy the shift to eating locally and seasonally?


D: It's been a significant shift for our family, and I hope our kids will appreciate it as they grow up. I've cut back on buying cereals and candies because they don't contribute much nutritionally. Food needs to be nourishing. We have plenty of ingredients at home, but sometimes the kids say, 'There's nothing to eat!', and I remind them, 'We have to make it.' My youngest son has developed a real passion for baking and cooking now and loves watching Top Chef with me. My older kids are athletes, so they need lots of protein. We have half a cow arriving next week for our freezer, and I'm looking forward to making hamburgers from scratch. Once you get into it, it's not that difficult.


V: What do you find challenging as a business?


D: I find it tough to change people's mindsets. Every week, I wonder if this will work. But you have to trust the process and keep moving forward. Dan and his family have faced similar challenges over the years. When I launched Valley to Shore in 2021, our first season ended successfully with 85 orders in January. We expected exponential growth, especially with the media's push to support local farmers and the 'we're in this together' sentiment. However, as things started to open up, that message faded, and orders declined in the following season. It was discouraging. Initially, the Harvest Box was priced at $65. Now, it's $75. I know it's on the higher end, but you can't find this much quality and variety anywhere else. It's a large box filled with high-quality food only available through me. But I know it requires a mindset shift.

We live in a busy culture where convenience and sales often dictate food shopping habits. I used to be the same. Growing up in a single-parent household, I remember meals like Campbell's mushroom soup very clearly from my childhood. It wasn't until I moved out that I started to cook. In my twenties as a young mom, I'd go to Save-on-Foods almost every day to get what I needed for that day. But now, I'd rather not spend money on tasteless imported food sprayed with pesticides. I'd rather invest in flavorful, seasonal food available at the right time of year and appreciate the natural food cycle."


V: What are your future visions for Valley to Shore?


D: I dream of having a small shop and building a community around it. I'd love to offer flour, have a coffee bar setup with Barking Irons coffee and expand our selection of meats. Getting meat products from ranchers to city markets is especially challenging because of their remote locations. With a shop, I could highlight each farm and product with informative write-ups. It would help people feel connected to where their food comes from.


V: What does food mean to you?


D: Food is everything to us. We prioritize farmer-direct food over holidays and trips because it affects every aspect of our daily lives, both physically and mentally. Nourishing my family with high-quality, locally sourced food, knowing where it comes from, and enjoying its exceptional quality, is one of the most valuable ways we can spend our money. It's not a sacrifice because every meal makes us feel good about our choices. It sets a positive tone for the entire day.


V: What are you cooking tonight with the Harvest Box?


D: I would love to make the potato salad, and I could use some of the eggs too. Maybe whip up a simple strawberry syrup with those beautiful local strawberries. There's so much I can create - it’s satisfying to look at the plate and know I can name all the farms each item came from. If I didn't grow it myself, this is the next best thing. Being able to identify the source of each ingredient is special. It's also rewarding to see how my customers share what they make and tag me. I love hearing people say their kids will eat vegetables from Local Harvest that they wouldn't touch before, because the food tastes so good, just like it should - delicious.


Valley to Shore

Dana Dykema


City homesteader serving the North Shore

Farmer direct from the Fraser Valley Know where your food comes from Eat local, eat real food

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