On August 18, 2019, over thirty-five folks of all ages joined us through out the day as we explored three farms and four farm businesses across Creston and Erickson. Folks came out from as far away as Blewett and Winlaw and we even had a few people travel by bike between the stops, despite the 30+ degree weather (way to go!).
Thank you to all of our amazing host farms and farmers and to everyone who joined us! Read on for a recap of the afternoon’s activities and to learn about our inspiring host farms!
WLOKA FARMS FRUIT STAND
The day began at one of Creston’s long-standing family-operated farm businesses, Wloka Farms Fruit Stand. This bustling operation employs 49 part-time and full-time staff! The business currently has 55 acres under production, all but one within 4.8 kilometres of the farm stand. Half of the land cultivated comprises market garden produce and the other are orchards.
After an introduction circle, Barb Wloka led the group through their raspberry bushes (jungle!) and the peach orchard. Barb’s depth of knowledge in growing food in the various micro-climates and soils of Erickson and Creston is incredible.
Wloka grows both floricane and primocane raspberry varieties. While floricane raspberries are summer-bearing, their floricane bushes produce berries for their customers until the end of November. In the spring, Wloka invites the community to the farm to shovel and dig out raspberry bushes to bring home.
Barb spoke to the farm-curious group about orchard management, showing off a reflective mulch under their peach trees that has improved production and the return bud set. There are several brands that produce it now and the mulch can also be applied to tomatoes and cherries.
Barb conducted an experiment in order to see how the reflective mulch would improve their harvest. On two of their own Lapins cherry plots, Extenday, one brand of reflective mulch, was applied to one plot and not the other. After the five years, Barb found that the plot where Extenday was applied produced cherries that were twice as large as the other plot, as well as better buds and return.
The farm uses tea tape for irrigation and have moved from plastic row coverings for planting to a biodegradable organic product. Barb explained how the lighter the colour applied, the more heat is created under the biodegradable plastic film. Though it is more expensive than traditional plastic products, they save money on labour, as the product disintegrates into the soil. You can check out Wloka’s Facebook page here to follow what they’re up to!
YAQAN NUKIY FARMS
The second stop of the tour, Yaqan Nukiy Farms comprises 30 acres of mixed vegetable and fruit production. Now in its second year of operation, a visit to the Yaqan Nukiy Farms led by Manager Dave Mutch provided a great opportunity to see a new farm in expansion.
The 30 acres include a wide variety of market garden vegetables like rutabaga, beets, carrots and potatoes (120 000 lbs!), as well as five acres of berry bushes, focusing on crops like blackberries and moving away from labour intensive crops like currants. They sell their produce to both the St. Eugene and Ainsworth Resorts and local businesses like Johnny’s and Morris Flowers Garden Centre.
In the hot, sunny climate of the Creston Valley, the farm uses drip line irrigation to preserve water. In fact, they found that using sprinklers causes 80% more water loss than drip line irrigation. The land is fenced with aluminum galvanized posts and also uses organic fungicides and pesticides.
The Lower Kootenay Band is one of the six bands that make up the Ktunaxa Nation; four are located in Canada and two in the US. Employment on the farm is first offered to members of the 40+ family band. Currently all but two of the farm’s team are Yaqan Nukiy. Yaqan Nukiy leases the land from the Crown on a 100-year lease.
MORRIS FLOWERS GREENHOUSES
At the tour’s final location, General Manager Jen Comer gave us a detailed tour of the Morris Flowers greenhouses. Jen provided information about the Morris greenhouses and business, a full-service retail and wholesale Garden Centre established in 1953. The family-owned operation also proudly sells produce from what is harvested at the Yaqan Nukiy Farms.
Jen took over management of the businesses a couple years ago after managing the Creston Valley Farmers Market for a number of years and has already undertaken some important changes. For Morris Flowers, financial viability is of utmost importance. The operation switched from wood-heated greenhouses to natural gas. This is important considering they have thousands of square feet of greenhouses.
They’ve began to move away from bed crops and towards the production and sale of hot house crops like tomatoes, strawberries and greens. The business’s flower shop and market garden are also in expansion.
ROOT & VINE ACRES AND THE PEPPERED PIG
Following Jen’s tour, the group ended in the shady and relaxing Morris Garden Centre Pavilion, where we heard from the owner of Root & Vine Acres in Wynndel, Jessica Piccinin, who got her farm business idea off the ground in 2008 when she took the Start Smart Program. From two acres, Root & Vine produces a variety of pasture-raised meats, herbs, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Jessica talked to the group about her added-value business endeavour in expansion, The Peppered Pig, which we enjoyed for dinner!
Root & Vine sells its products direct-to-consumer through the Peppered Pig food truck, which can be found most Saturdays at the Creston Valley Farmers Market and festivals like Tiny Lights, Kaslo Jazz Fest and the community events like the Cranbrook Multicultural Festival. On the menu, you’ll find ethically raised treats like brisket, hamburgers, bratwurst, sausage and mixed bowls with tons of tasty local produce. This fall, they will be offering Mangalica, a breed of Hungarian origin with a unique flavour, for the first time. You won’t find this anywhere else nearby (so don’t miss out)!
Jessica’s business provides a beautiful example of local supply chains and local supporting local. Most of the Peppered Pig’s meats come from Root & Vine Acres directly but they also source some beef from Creston-based Tarzwell Beef. They source their sauerkraut from Counter Cultured Fermented Foods, which in turn sources their produce (cabbage, onions and so on) from local certified organic farms like Salix and Sedge Farm and Red Lion Organic Farms, both located in Salmo. You can follow Jessica and Root & Vine Acres on Facebook here and Instagram here.
Amongst the greenery of the pavilion, lively music by local musician Devo III was enjoyed. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to join us for part or all of the tour!
JOIN US FOR ANOTHER COLUMBIA BASIN EVENT!
- October 6, 2019 ~ Ferment & Feast, Castlegar
- October 25th – 26th 2019 ~ Columbia Basin Mixer, Rossland
- Save the date! November 16, 2019 Land Linking Workshop, Nelson
- November TBD ~ Forrest Farms Tour, Stew-Making and Potluck, Salmo
GOT LAND? WANT LAND?
Through the B.C. Land Matching Program, Young Agrarians is offering support to farmers looking for land for their farm business and landowners looking for farmers to farm their land. The Columbia Basin Land Matcher will be attending the event to answer any questions about accessing land through this program. For those unable to join us, you can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Columbia Basin event series is made possible with funding from Columbia Basin Trust.