PICK YOUR OWN!

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE - SU­SAN McIVER

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.

SU­SAN MCIVER/Spe­cial to The Her­ald

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.

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