West Kelowna farmers and agritourism operators are hoping the district’s new farm loop will enjoy similar success to that of the Westside Wine Trail.
The Westside Farm Loop celebrated its official launch Thursday at Paynter’s Fruit Market in West Kelowna.
“I remember loading cherries into the van…driving all up and down the Valley, (and) taking fruit to Alberta to try to find markets for our fruit,” said Jeremy Griffin, a fourth-generation farmer at Griffin Farms in West Kelowna.
“If we can sell fruit from home, the Westside Farm Loop is definitely going to help us do that.”
Griffin Farms is one of 15 stops on the new farm loop, which is a collection of farms, fruit stands, u-pick operators and other agritourism businesses.
The goals of the Westside Farm Loop are to help increase awareness of West Kelowna’s farms and celebrate the region’s agricultural history.
The farm loop will aim to function similar to how the Westside Wine Trail currently operates by eventually including events and activities.
“Food is just a huge draw for tourists,” said Tom Cross of Mountain Valley Farm: The 13th stop on the Westside Farm Loop.
“We have so many great restaurants here that use our local produce. I think people just love to go to the farm and see where it actually comes from.”
West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said it’s important for the district to work with the farm community.
“Agriculture has a rich history here in West Kelowna,” said Findlater.
“We hear time and time again from our residents and visitors that they remember the Westside back as kids, picking and eating fresh fruit (and) veggies right out of the garden.”
John Perrott, business development officer with the District of West Kelowna, said the district took the idea of a farm loop to the Agrticultural Advisory Committee last year.
“We sat in front of them and said, ‘We have this idea, we’re not sure if it’s going to work, but can you give us a hand?’ We pulled out a big city map, and they started drawing on it where all the farms were,” said Perrott.
“Pretty quick you realize that there’s such a huge cluster here.”
The Westside Farm Loop operators have been quite involved with the planning process since then, according to Perrott. He added this process has allowed them to network.
“Getting them together on a regular basis and seeing them develop their relationships…it’s just building that sense of community.
“And that’s equally as rewarding.”
Jennay Oliver, owner of Paynter’s Fruit Market, said she has already noticed the benefits of getting to know other farmers in the area.
“Farmers generally tend to stay on their own farm and don’t leave for the full summer,” said Oliver.
“So to get out and see our neighbours and have kind of a community for farmers I think is fantastic.
“I think we can learn a lot from each other.”
The Westside Farm Loop can be found online at westsidefarmloop.com.