I was lucky enough to visit Valley View Farm in Penticton recently, where I got the chance to chat with the team that has made the organics farm such a hit at the Penticton Lakeside Resort: Resort Owner David Prystay, Valley View Farm’s General Manager Michelle Younie, and Penticton Lakeside Resort’s Executive Chef, Chris Remington.
Valley View Farm is Prystay’s pride and joy. What initially started as a personal venture has now become a thriving business. “We cleared off all the dying trees on the property and I brought along Michelle and I said to her, ‘do you want to help us build a farm?’” Prystay said as we viewed the interior of a greenhouse filled with exotic Hawaiian tuberous plants. “So we started with just a small area and we expanded from there and every year we’ve tried new things.”
The Valley View Farm originally was just a run down grass field. However, since the start of Michelle Younie’s tenure as general manager over four half and a half years ago, the property has evolved into a fully functioning organics farm, with over an acre of produce available for distribution. “Whenever I have something available, the hotel will stop ordering that produce and I will supply it. It’s strictly for the Penticton Lakeside Resort,” Younie explained to me. “Although sometimes we have a surplus and we have friends or good customers of David that we sell stuff to.”
The farm has experienced significant growth since its humble beginnings, with Penticton Lakeside Resort now depending on Valley View Farm to deliver 1000 pounds of produce every week. Needless to say, expectations are high. “We are the only real working farm that’s in the city of Penticton,” Younie confirmed. “The spring is normally the busiest. We are usually very busy until the middle of October but we have staples that are tried and true that we stick to- garlic, tomatoes, lettuce.”
Even though Yeonie and her staff are kept busy growing quality produce every week, they still find time to try out new things. “I’d say 60-70% of the farm is staples and 30% is experimentation. This season we tried edamame and those turned out very well. We plan to save the seeds and expand on that next season. And finally, after four years in the making, our fig tree is finally producing figs! So those were our big newcomers of the year.”
Successful new crop growth is something Chef Chris Remington loves hearing about since it means the introduction of delicious new food on the menu. Until the aforementioned ‘newcomers’ are fully up and running though, Remington is happy with his staples, with tomatoes being in most demand and supply. “The amount of tomatoes grown on this farm is awesome,” Remington said. “It’s probably two and a half months’ worth. I’ve already been using them for a month, and we have at least another month of them. And I do a lot of sauce! We’re already at about 400 liters of tomato sauce and we’ll probably produce another 400 liters which will last us throughout the winter.”
Even the rare green Michael Pollan tomatoes are grown on the farm. “They will taste better than any other canned product you’re going to get. We know exactly what’s in it. All we do is run them through a food mill to get rid of the skins and seeds so we’re left with pure tomato pulp and nothing else.”
I noticed the difference in quality the night I visited the Hooded Merganser restaurant at the hotel. While I’ve never been one to put too much thought into where the food on my plate comes from, I definitely appreciated the effort from the entire team when I enjoyed a delicious garden salad alongside my sirloin steak. Just in time for autumn too!
While there is definitely more work required to maintain the freshness of locally-grown produce, the entire team agrees they wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s completely worth it,” Remington said.
“It’s a totally different taste profile and now that we’re headed into winter and we’re getting tomatoes and food brought up from Mexico that taste like nothing….You definitely learn to appreciate local, fresh food.”