What a season 2020 shaped up to be. To say this will be “one for the books”, would be an understatement. What looked to be the busiest and most amazing yet, turned out to be rife with unanticipated challenges for us, along with many of our hospitality peers. Truthfully, some of the most significant struggles of my career took place during the 2020 season, yet I feel it is necessary to turn the page so to speak, and offer some insight into some newfound inspiration for the 2021 season. I feel we can all benefit from some cautious optimism moving forward, anticipating that we will speak about the significance of how we chose to react to the situation, not the situation itself. I can attest to the difficulty in making adjustments and decisions in life and business that are not in my control, but can recognize that it is for a finite amount of time….
It takes many hands and minds to ensure success during these times of uncertainty. We have been embraced with encouragement and support from our family, many clients, friends and industry peers. The many adjustments and restrictions to our business were overwhelming at times, yet we were met with compassion and support with the understanding that the necessary measures were not in our control. We did our best to accommodate our wealth of pre-booked clients when we were forced to shut down, many of whom chose to carry over their deposit to a future booking rather than cancel outright. We made the necessary decision to offer take away “Black Box” meal kits to help support our family and small team, and we very quickly had a list of clients interested in our offerings, leading to selling out within hours of posting each week. We had family and friends offer their help for packaging and pick up days, without any expectations. When unexpected circumstances deemed it necessary, Mo and Tanya stepped up to help with the admin side of the business, which is a huge workload based upon our desire to offer a tailored approach for all of our clients. The additional Covid booking policies and procedures make this workload even greater, and we wouldn’t have managed without their help. Our service team, mostly comprised of those looking for a side-hustle, continued to offer an incredible level of refined service, while also navigating through many additional details for cleanliness and sanitation before, during and after service. It goes without saying that many of our service team members not only worked later and longer hours, but also sacrificed family time to entertain our guests and clients. My wife Mikkel took back the responsibility of cleaning and setting our dining room, along with caring for our most adorable little girls. Not such a small feat when she is also the one harvesting produce for our menus, picking the flowers, planting and managing the farms’ bounty. She has been such an integral part of our success, happiest to stay in the background being mom and farmer, in addition to the best sounding board for honest advice. Family members were always close at hand to entertain our little ladies, catching butterflies and encouraging their artistic talents while we were preparing for our guests’ arrival.
Many of our most anticipated peak season events are in collaboration with our loyal winery partners. We have been very fortunate to cultivate relationships with many notable wineries and distillery partners over the last 7 seasons through a mutual appreciation for food and wine culture. Those who have attended any of these events likely recognize the success and magic of these events comes from the essence of mutual passion for our crafts. We believe it is palpable, and our entire team puts a significant amount of thought and careful planning in order to represent our partners to our fullest potential. Facing adversity in regards to social distancing measures, seating arrangements and ticket sales in general, many of our winery clients chose to support our business regardless of these challenges. We respect the elevated logistics and planning that was necessary for a successful outcome, and are very appreciative to those who recognized that these events could still be successful and worthy of the extra effort for the sake of the guest experience. The majority of the events were very quickly sold out, as most of our events were very limited availability. We are looking forward to another amazing season of events with our partners, and have started updating our events page accordingly. All tickets will be sold through the winery or distilleries and we will update details as they are finalized. We anticipate additional dates will transpire. Please visit the events page if you are interested to see what is up and coming for later this season. Here is the link for our schedule: Events
With the season ending up being much more involved in 2020, it was a rarity to take a look much further than a week at a time. Yet again, we had a full schedule of return guests and clients for private culinary experiences with us. Simply amazing to see so many familiar faces, many of which were very understanding about our limited capacity due to the numerous health orders and social distancing measures imposed upon the entire restaurant and hospitality industry. Our June 1st relaunch upon finalizing our Covid safety plan limited our seating to 12, rather than the 20 guests we designed Backyard Farm to host. Certainly it can appreciated that a 50% reduction of anything revenue related is drastic for any business, especially seasonal, but it didn’t deter many from continuing with their plans to join us. The end result? The obvious losses were balanced with the ability to focus our efforts on refinement; in service details, and a more creative approach to menu development. After a few months of offering our Black Box meal kits and focusing on food production rather than refinement, it was a welcome change back for us. Needless to say, it takes the same amount of effort and preparation for 20 guests as it does 12, and for nearly half the revenue. It has been cause for a few sleepless nights for sure, and then we decided to make some “moves” in development. Always wanting outdoor dining on a beautiful patio, we decided to move forward with the plans for the build. With the help of Warren Brown at Desert Valley Consulting, we were able to get phase one of the patio build conquered in August. The concrete is sitting idle, and we are currently working on the plans to finalize the build with hopes of completion by June 1st. The catalyst was obviously to get back to our capacity, but also offering a bit more diversity in our culinary offerings. We will keep you informed of the progression, but we plan to ensure that an outdoor dining experience with us is not necessarily weather dependent. We intend on offering the same detail oriented approach to our culinary experiences, in an outdoor atmosphere. We will be certain to keep everyone informed as this project comes to fruition, as we have some work to do!
In the face of adversity, Kyle and I truly couldn’t have worked harder than we did. Kyle has been with us for 7 years, and his dependability, work ethic and positivity was critical to our success this season. Challenged with the uncertainty of the season, it was just the two of us for the majority of it. We were fortunate to have JJ join us a day or two a week to add a couple extra hands for our weekend roster-he added some great energy to the kitchen! Just in time for a boost of inspiration, we installed a “Rational Icombi” in October, something that was always part of the master plan. I have yet to truly experiment with it, but the timing was unbelievable. Like a piece of culinary jewelry, not only is it nice to look at, but it offers a substantial increase in productivity, consistency along with a need for us to continue learning and adapting our menus and recipes. I have been aware for many years that many Michelin Star restaurants have one, and I can understand why-the ability to pair intuitive cooking with technology is incredible! During a season such as this, it is a welcome tool in our toolbox, and both of us are looking forward to testing the capabilities of it. We will also be hosting some demonstrations at the farm for those in the industry who may be interested in learning more about this piece of culinary technology. Feel free to reach out if you would like to know more about how you can join us for a “Icombi Cooking Live” Demonstration. We are currently finalizing dates.
As I review our past season and look ahead into the next, I am reminded of the positive changes that 2020 has brought forward. Collectively, we have all made sacrifices, dealt with uncertainty and a lack of control over what we do, who we see, where we go. For us, it has been frustrating, stressful and certainly taken its toll on our ability to operate our business as it was intended. It has inhibited our ability to pursue development with less risk, and has limited our profitability with circumstances out of our control. All this said, it has also contributed to a new awareness of value. Value of time and experience. The importance of recognizing the value of ones’ time and how you spend it has to be the most critically positive outcome. I, like many in my chosen career, got to have dinner with my family and read stories with my kids at bedtime much more often(especially during the lockdown). This time is simply something you just can’t get back. I also feel that the culinary industry has generally become more appreciated and respected by the consumer, not only for the sacrifices made but also for the opportunity to “go out”, to be entertained and have a meal cooked for you. The culinary and hospitality industry has been plagued by shortcomings due to many variables, but I am hopeful that a newfound consumer respect has evolved. Perhaps we will see an increase of interest in this career along with the ability to pay wages that match the effort and experience of passionate cooks and service staff members. Maybe we will see menu prices be reflective of the increased costs and losses, along with a more acute customer awareness of the value of a quality experience? Quality culinary experiences are becoming scarce, and it is the support and encouragement of the consumer that will keep those doors open. Our doors will stay open, and we will continue to strive for excellence. Our intention is to continue developing Backyard Farm, building this dream and sharing our love of family, farm, food and wine culture in this amazing community. Thank you to all of you who show interest and support in what we do, it is the inspiration that drives our future.
Our calendar is filling rather quickly for peak season. We are just finalizing our updated pricing and booking guidelines for the season, and will start confirming dates shortly.You can view our availability here: Calendar
We will be in the office, pruning the orchard and commencing a few projects, anticipating welcoming guests back to the farm mid-february. Our Covid protocols and policies will continue to be adjusted and updated according to all Health BC Guidelines and Public Health Orders. If you are interested in our private chef services and catering, or joining us for a tailored culinary experience, please send us an email. We will forward our pricing and discuss details directly with you. Contact us.
Here is to turning the page on 2020, knowing that 2021 has all the potential to be as great as we make it. So, let’s make it great. Let’s do it with kindness and compassion. Let’s do it together.