Bike to farm-to-table in Vernon
Vernon, BC — Going for a bike trip or day ride in the Vernon region of the Okanagan, the cycle of life literally envelops you (yes, pun intended). Here, sustainable agriculture is a lifestyle as much as a livelihood.
In these valleys, growers understand the importance of working in harmony with nature. Adapting to the elements, and listening closely to what they’re telling you, is very much a way of life.
Want to live it too? Read on to find out how, by entering our Vernon fall cycling contest (details in our "When You Go" section.) Closes Oct 12, 2023,
Exploring the farms that encircle the Vernon area by bicycle provides a unique perspective on the landscape and the agriculturalists that sustain it. This is a place where “farm-to-table” existed well before it was named, and where farmers continually evolve their practices to follow Mother Nature’s cues.
Watch: Bike to farm-to-table in Vernon
If you would like to do the same on a pedal tour of the Vernon area, here are a few places to get started.
Follow the Bees
“Everything happens in a circle, and we learn that from working with the earth,” says Shelley Wolsey of Wildwood Acres Garden Farm. Shelley has held closely to this principle since opening her holistic wellness farm just outside Vernon three years ago.
Now a thriving lavender and herb farm with a bumble bee conservation site endorsed by Wildlife Preservation Canada, Wildwood Acres began with very little cultivation at all.
An Indigenous healer who was a close friend of Shelley and her partner came to stay on their land and helped Shelley to learn what was already growing and how she could use it.
She’s come a long way from pine needle tea, but Shelley still takes her cues from the land.
“We don’t weed here, we let Mother Nature decide what to grow,” she says.
Wander an Organic Orchard
Thousands of apple trees, 10 acres of orchards, eight years of family-run operations, and three years certified organic—the numbers tell a story at Curlew Orchard.
Owner and farmer Patrick Ling-Allen is less concerned with the numbers though, and more with evolving sustainable apple-growing practices.
“What brought me to apples…” he muses, laughing. The answer is a combination of returning to his hometown of Vernon, bringing lessons learned from his background in environmental management, and growing a sustainable farm that could support his family and their future.
The apples can now be found all over UBC Okanagan’s campus where Curlew Orchards is a designated supplier.
Right now, the family is focused on planting tree after tree that will replace Curlew Orchard’s current high-density orchard with more traditional apple trees.
Patrick’s eyes light up as he speaks about these resilient trees which will build a legacy of organic apple-growing.
Discover “Seed to Serve”
When it comes to change—and adapting growing practices to match it—the Gatzke family are old hands. Four generations of the family have farmed this land since 1929.
When Alan Gatzke’s grandfather opened his farm stand in 1942 after 13 years of hard work, he likely would never have imagined that Gatzke Orchard would still be feeding travelers today.
“When you think about how we’ve changed the ways we grow here, it’s just about everything,” says Alan. The farm has shifted from exporting to keeping their produce on-site for visitors to enjoy in their restaurant or take home.
Alan explains that this shift has allowed them to employ staff for a long season and keep them in the community.
“This team here works through every step of what we do, from seeding and planting to harvesting and preparing,” he says. “We call it seed to serve.”
Find Perfect Pairings
At O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars, farm-to-table was intentional from day one. The winery was formed with the idea of inspiring a menu, and the colourful rows of fruits and vegetables came soon after.
The “garden bistro” was built as just that: a garden first and bistro second.
“The vision was not only to have 100 per cent estate-grown grapes, but also to power our restaurant with as much of our own produce as possible,” says Liz Haskell, Bistro Manager.
What does 100% estate-grown mean? Every grape going into Peak Cellars wine making is grown right on the property, and that’s pretty rare. When the winemakers have a new wine to offer, they bring it to the culinary team who look at what’s growing in the garden and build menu pairings from there.
Liz explains that the menu is ever evolving based on seasonal produce, and diners aren’t likely to see the same culinary creation more than once.
It’s a match made in farm-to-table heaven—much like touring Vernon’s agricultural and culinary scene by bike.
When you go
Want to recreate the experiences here? Just grab this handy itinerary off the Tourism Vernon website.
While you're there, check out all the resources they offer to help you plan your trip here, including where to stay, more places to eat and things to do.
Enter to win a Vernon fall trip
Here are a few more tips for your trip!
Bikes are available to rent around Vernon, including at Gatzke Orchards who offer e-bike rentals on the doorstep of the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Enjoy a unique orchard stay
Curlew Orchard operates the original home on their farm as a guest cottage, and they also offer on-site Pilates sessions.
Participate in citizen science
at Wildwood Acres by taking pictures of the bumble bees and uploading them to Wildlife Preservation Canada’s “Bumble Bee Watch” program.
Don’t miss Masiero Pizzeria Napoletana in downtown Vernon, where savoury pies featuring local produce are made in their wood-fired oven.
Share your adventures!
Let us know what you find, include #ExploreVernon and #ZenSeekers in your posts.