After 20 years growing U-pick strawberries in Pemberton, Allen and Tonette McEwan have wound down their strawberry farm after a super short final season. The McEwans estimate that in that time they grew between 200 and 300 tonnes of berries to feed our appetites for sweetness! But they haven’t left us without a source of a fix. Their succession plan involves mentoring young farmers up the Valley, Carrie and Remi Charron at Camel’s Back Harvest, who have a field planted out this year, and will be ready to provide U-pick strawberries next summer.
Choose Pemberton connected with the McEwan’s to find out more. (Check out the entire Q+A, here.)
Why strawberries? (Is Pemberton particularly conducive?)
We were encouraged to grow berries by the Naylor’s, previous growers, who felt that there was a demand for more berry production. Our soil seems well suited to growing good berries, with exceptional flavor.
What’s the pleasure in U-pick for people?
Most people seem to enjoy the opportunity to harvest their own food. Many families bring their children for the “farm” experience.
What is your favourite way to eat/enjoy strawberries?
Even after 20 years of growing them, I like berries any way. Fresh in the field is best.
After potatoes, strawberries might actually be Pemberton’s most famous crop, at least, insofar as it’s role as a driver for people to journey to Pemberton. Do you have a sense of where your customers hail from?
Customers routinely come from as far as Lillooet in the north and Vancouver in the south. Whistler and Squamish are a big part of the clientele.
You’re a 4th generation Pembertonian. What do you think is one of the most positive changes that’s happened in Pemberton in the last decade? And what you do think are the most beneficial legacies we enjoy thanks to the early pioneers?
We are pleased to see more interest in farming in the last decade – several new organic operations have started up and we hope they do well. We’re also seeing a move towards diversity with cranberries and organic dairy – that is good news. The pioneers leave us two important legacies – the dyking system (absolutely essential) and the seed potato industry which remains the backbone of agriculture in the valley. Seed potatoes are the one commodity which we are able to market – in bulk – through out the Pacific Northwest. We must protect this industry!
And what’s next for the McEwans, when the last plant is ploughed into the ground? Round the world cruises and all you can eat buffets?
We’ll focus on the cattle operation for the time being and hope to spend more time in the mountains.