Fam­ily Af­fair

If you want to know what the Okana­gan is all about, drive past the fancy beach houses and tro­phy winer­ies all the way to the 650 acres of Covert Farms, where four gen­er­a­tions bring all the Val­ley’s bounty to­gether.

Western Living - - CONTENTS - by JEN­NIFER COCKRALL- KING // recipes by CAMP­BELL KEARNS pho­to­graphs by EVAAN KHERAJ // styling by LUISA RINO

Covert Farms is where four gen­er­a­tions bring all the Val­ley’s bounty to­gether.

Gene Covert—tanned, re­laxed and with his ever-present smile—leans against a bright-red 1952 Mer­cury pickup. Guests are trick­ling in, past the al­pacas and High­land cattle pad­dock. He’s fer­ry­ing them up a long tree-lined drive­way in the back of the classic truck that he uses for farm tours. The cus­tom bench seat­ing holds eight at a time.

They’ve come from Van­cou­ver, Kelowna and Pen­tic­ton for Covert Farms’ Har­vest Din­ner, a field-to-ta­ble and vine­yard-to-glass feast to cel­e­brate what is grown, made and fer­mented right on this his­toric 650-acre

farm in Oliver, B.C. Run by Gene and his wife, Shelly, this prop­erty has been in the fam­ily for three gen­er­a­tions—and Gene and Shelly’s three teens, who all have jobs here in the sum­mer, will be the fourth.

A farm is al­ways many things, but Covert is truly an ecosys­tem. More than 40 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of cer­ti­fied or­ganic fruits and veg­eta­bles are grown here. It has its own cer­ti­fied or­ganic vine­yards, win­ery, tast­ing shop and wine lounge. Grapes are also grown on con­tract for a large win­ery neigh­bour. There’s a small herd of High­land cattle, some Bar­ba­dos Black­belly sheep, chick­ens and even al­pacas. There’s a pro­duce store and sev­eral farm build­ings, not to men­tion the var­i­ous homes of the Covert fam­ily mem­bers and those who work here. Walk the U-pick fields and you might even see Mark James Lu­cas with his paints, can­vas and easel—the prop­erty’s own

plein air artist-in-res­i­dence (see page 53). Tours, pub­lic and pri­vate events, school

pro­grams and dinners are now an im­por­tant part of the mix. Covert’s Freak’n Farmer com­pe­ti­tion, now in its sixth year, at­tracts 800 ex­treme ob­sta­cle course rac­ers to hoist trac­tor tires and shimmy through mud un­der logs. More than 500 guests at­tend the an­nual fam­ily-friendly Pig Out vine­yard pig roast, and then there is the 1½-hour culi­nary tour, led by ei­ther Gene or by the farm’s chef-in­res­i­dence, Camp­bell Kearns.

On the day I ar­rive, there’s not just one, but two events. A 160-per­son wed­ding is hap­pen­ing in the vines and will soon shift to a large tent near the wine shop and lounge. This means that Gene and Shelly have moved tonight’s Har­vest Din­ner—the rea­son I’m here—to the porch at Diana Covert’s home. Diana, Gene’s mother, though now re­tired from farm du­ties, is the farm’s

And, as such, her oth­er­wise mod­est rancher with weath­ered blue shiplap sid­ing has a sweet promon­tory view of what seems like the en­tire re­gion.

Gene brings up an­other round of guests and Shelly—pos­si­bly the bub­bli­est per­son on earth—greets them with a glass in hand of Covert Farms’ pale-pink sparkling zin­fan­del

méth­ode an­ces­trale. As they stare slack-jawed out from the lawn, some­one whis­pers, “This is what you get when you’ve been on the farm the long­est—the best spot with the best view.”

From here, it’s easy to see why Ge­orge Covert, Gene’s grand­fa­ther, bought this land in Novem­ber 1959, the very mo­ment he set foot on it. Ge­orge and his wife, Winifred, co-owned a busy tomato-pack­ing house in Cal­i­for­nia, and they de­cided it was time to slow the pace some­what. Ge­orge drove to the Okana­gan on ru­mours of good farm­land for fruit and field crops and he im­me­di­ately fell in love with the re­gion. He bought both the 600 acres (an­other 50 were added later) that would be­come Covert Farms, plus a cattle ranch near Osoy­oos. He then had to re­turn home to in­form Winifred that they were mov­ing to Canada.

Gene Covert shut­tles vis­i­tors in his vin­tage red pickup truck. Old School

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