The Okanagan Valley’s local vegetable and fruit harvest is happening at the perfect time to scoop up fresh produce for the Thanksgiving weekend.
Glen Hall, who owns and farms for the Apple Bin in Okanagan Falls, has late prunes and winter pears ready, along with plenty of apples and ground crops.
“The harvest is going really well. Everything's a little late this year, as you probably have known, but it's going really, really well. The quality of the fruit is good,” he said. As a self-serve fruit stand, the Apple Bin remains open 24 hours for the community to shop at.
This year Hall planted rows of corn for the first time, which have been consistently popular with the locals.
Local Motive store owner and farmer Thomas Tumbach said his 40 different crops out in Garnet Valley have seen a mix of good and bad harvests.
“We've had some really unpredictable weather, very cold spring, and then moving into some really warm temperatures late in the season. So that had its effect on certain crops. Some of the early crops were stunted. And so they were really slow to start getting the growth they need to produce. And then other crops did okay because they liked colder weather and the wet moist spring was good for them.”
The extended fall season with dry, warm weather has allowed his crops to catch up.
The farmers said that if there's one time of the year when you really want to buy something local and spoil yourself, it’s Thanksgiving.
“We have an incredible bounty of crops here in the Okanagan, that are perfect for that,” Tumbach said. “It's the peak of harvest. So the flavour is amazing. And that's what Thanksgiving is all about, is being grateful for this amazing bountiful harvest that we're having, and to really celebrate the local food.”
More than ever there is encouragement to support the local food supply.
“By supporting us, we're not using a lot of packaging. We're not boxing up our apples. We're not transporting them hundreds of miles to and from packing facilities and bringing them back,” Hall said. “You're buying literally from farm to plate. And I think that's the main takeaway is there's no extra cost of all those things to the environment. It's just right from the farm.”
Tumbach said that farmers have faced a lot of challenges in the last five years.
“It's been a really erratic growing season for five years in a row, so many farmers are struggling. And really, they need your support. So whatever crops they do have to sell, they really need to make sure they're sold, and they're getting a good dollar for them.”
After the Coquihalla highway was shut down last year due to catastrophic floods, many grocery store shelves became bare in the Valley as it was cut off from the Lower Mainland.
But not at Local Motive, where the focus on their business model has been stocking local supplies all along.
Tumbach said that while there was a peak for shopping while bigger stores were out, customers have gone back to their usual spots.
“We need to work hard, if not harder, to support the local farm economy. And the reason for that is it takes years and years to build a farm, develop your land and the crops you grow the knowledge, all those things, your infrastructure,” he said.
“We can't just have those things overnight if there is some weather-related catastrophe, we can't just turn on the switch of local food. It's something we have to build slowly and methodically.”
Through inflation, bad weather, hail or heat wave, they will keep going.
“We hope that people will look after us, so we can keep farming,” Hall said.