Farmers and specialty producers along the Fraser Canyon and in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast welcome the chance to share the art, science and dedication involved in raising livestock and growing crops, including their efforts to maintain sustainable farm and ranch ecosystems featuring healthy soils and free-range pasture lands. We are increasingly aware that local, sustainably grown foods are vital to health and well- being. Reducing the environmental impact of long-distance shipping, the need for food stabilizers and other preservatives is key to sustainability.
In the north Cariboo, organic producers entice with the uniquely sweet taste of birch syrup tapped fresh from the tree, including a novel birch syrup BBQ sauce. The central Cariboo features such delicacies as the Marguerite and Soda Creek areas’ sweet corn on the cob. From July through October, don’t miss the unique experience of the Cariboo Corn Maze at the Australian Ranch on Hwy. 97. In the Chilcotin, guests can overnight on a 1,600hec/3,954ac property serving home-grown organic produce, as well as grass-fed meats processed in the ranch’s own abattoir.
The south Cariboo is young in terms of grape production, but the B.C. Grapegrower’s have been conducting test vineyards for several years in the Lytton and Lillooet area. The vines at Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet dig deep into soil enriched by 150 years of melon, tomato and alfalfa production – a factor, perhaps, in why the winery continues to make the headlines. Since 2012 the B.C. vineyard has won many gold, silver and bronze medals at international competitions, including at the prestigious Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition. Lillooet has also evolved into a hotbed for hop growers who are helping fuel the rise of B.C.’s burgeoning craft-beer industry. In 2013, the organic hops grown by Lillooet’s Bitterbine Hop Company were used by Vancouver’s Powell Street Craft Brewery to produce the Canadian Brewing Awards’ Beer of the Year. The presence of local hop farms also enables B.C. brewers to craft new, trend-setting products such as “fresh-hopped” beer, made by adding hops to brews within 24 hours of harvest. Barkerville Brewing Co. in Quesnel uses local hops to pay homage to this historic region and tell its stories through beer.
In the Fraser Canyon the saying goes, “add water to this sun-drenched land and you can grow anything”, this is proven by the abundant orchards, vegetable growers and ranch lands. For over 150 years produce grown here has been world renowned, from Widow Smith apples in Spences Bridge to giant potatoes and tasteful tomatoes from Ashcroft. The community of Lytton has become a destination for organic and heirloom production with several
farms growing fruits and vegetables, including onions, garlic, squash, melons, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, and over 50 varieties of apples. Other ranches produce rare heritage poultry or heirloom open-pollinated seeds to ensure food diversity. Visit Siska Traditions to learn about wild and traditional First Nation food harvest including wild herbs, teas, Saskatoon berries, huckleberries, nodding onions and wild pine, porcinis, and morel mushrooms.
Many communities host weekly farmers markets, often with local arts and crafts showcased. At the Bella Coola market, for instance, travellers can stock up on fresh produce and sample regional specialties such as honey, giant prawns, Dungeness crab and salmon; gourmands can keep their eyes peeled for farm- gate offerings of sweet Walla Walla onions, Russian red garlic and sun-loving Kentucky wonder yellow beans. Other operators in the region, open their barn doors so visitors can appreciate the fine art of “farming with the season” while sampling and purchasing local delicacies.
Many local fairs showcase 4-H competitions highlighting the rewards of raising livestock and growing crops while acquiring life skills. Mentored by local ranchers and farm producers, children between the ages of 9 and 19 years “Learn to do by doing” in projects on with beef, horses, lambs, hogs, sewing, mechanics, photography, bees, gardening and more.