PICK YOUR OWN!
Albert Weaver and Doreen Yurkin have restored an historic Meadow Valley ranch to a productive hay, livestock and berry operation.
Located 17 kilometres west of Summerland, Meadow Valley is reached by travelling through the settlement of Faulder.
“When I bought the ranch from Mrs. Beck seven years ago, it had been vacant for about eight years,” Weaver said.
While restoring the property, Weaver uncovered an inscription in the concrete foundation of the original house which read “Darke Lake Ranch 1897”.
“The Monroe family originally homesteaded the place. They operated a dairy here for many years,” Weaver said.
A life-long farmer in the Lower Mainland, Weaver had raised cranberries until a highway was constructed through his land.
“I looked all over the province before I could find a place where I felt comfortable living,” he said.
Weaver quickly set about reseeding 110 acres of timothy grass hay which he sold to horse owners both locally and on the coast.
More recently, the hay has been used for livestock.
In 2013, he started a cow calf operation with the purchase of 40 Hereford-Angus cross heifers.
Today, he has 44 cows and sells over three dozen calves at the Okanagan Falls stockyard.
“The beef business is way better than it used to be,” Weaver said.
A year and a half after his arrival in Meadow Valley, Weaver was joined by Yurkin, who had been his neighbour in the Lower Mainland.
With a background in farming and dairy plus nine years of private gardening experience in West Vancouver, Yurkin felt right at home.
In 2013, she started raising Dorper sheep, a breed noted for producing large amounts of flavourful meat. This year she has 60 ewes and 43 lambs. After the lambs are processed in Kelowna, the meat is sold cut, wrapped and frozen at the ranch.
“All my sales are word of mouth,” Yurkin said.
Weaver and Yurkin also have 10 acres of Saskatoon berry bushes.
“Saskatoons are an unusual commercial crop for the area. I knew they would do well because they grow wild here,” Weaver said.
Native to North America, the range of Saskatoons extends from Alaska and NWT south to California and, Arizona.
“Saskatoons are loaded with antioxidants and contain higher levels of protein and fibre than most other fruit,” Yurkin explained.
In 2009, Weaver planted 9,000 bare root stock plants by machine with a subsequent significant loss.
A year later, Yurkin planted 5,000 replacement plants by hand.
The plants have now matured sufficiently to produce a reasonably sized crop.
“This year we anticipate getting 1,000 pounds per acre and in a few years as much as 10,000 pounds per acre,” Weaver said.
Ultimately he wants to have a large enough crop to guarantee sufficient quantities required for sale to large commercial processors.
Starting this year the couple will be selling berries on a U-Pick basis.
“The berries should be ripe by Friday of next week, June 17,” Yurkin said. Visitors are welcome starting at 9 a.m. The best time to pick is in the morning and late afternoon through early evening.
“Please bring your own containers and picking buckets,” Yurkin said.
If customers prefer, she and Weaver will pre-pick orders.
Finding the ranch is a bit of a treasure hunt. Start by going west on Prairie Valley Road.
“I’ll have signs saying ‘U-Pick Saskatoons’ at critical turning spots,” Yurkin said.
For directions or to order pre-picked berries call (250) 404-0491 or email monroer[email protected]mail.com. Please no dogs or children under 10 years of age.
Susan McIver is The Herald’s Summerland and agriculture reporter.
Doreen Yurkin and Albert Weaver, above, produce hay, livestock and Saskatoon berries on their Meadow Valley ranch. This year, they are selling the berries on a U-Pick basis. Yurkin says the berries are ripe now. Please bring your own containers and picking buckets.