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Blue Moon rising


Fromimprobable beginnings, Comox Valley winery and cider operation will be increasing production to meet growing demand. By Susan McIver


F


ew, if any, successful businesses have started with one of the future owners saying, “Are you freakn’ crazy?” when first presented with the idea. But that is what Marla Limosin said to her husband George Ehler in 2004 when he slipped a real estate ad for an organic blueberry farm in the Comox Valley onto her desk. “George wasn’t really serious about the farm, but after playing with the idea in my head for a week, I suggested that we go look at it,” Marla recalled. At the time, the couple was living with their two young sons on a five-acre fruit, sheep and chicken farm on Salt Spring Island.


SUSAN MCIVER


Marla Limosin and husband George Ehler, owners of Blue Moon Farm Winery and Ciderworx anticipate producing 120,000 litres of cider in 2018.


Previously, they had worked for several years in the high Arctic, Marla as an urban planner and landscape architect and George as an engineer.


Today, they own Blue Moon Farm Winery and Ciderworx in Courtenay.


Marla readily admitted she thought of their new farm as a semi-retirement project.


“I think I read the wrong manual on retirement,” she joked, thinking of the steep learning curve and long days of hard work during the past 11 years.


Neither Marla nor George had a background in production agriculture.


In addition to 4,000 30-year-old blueberry bushes, their six-acre farm came with plantings of other crops, including sand cherries and several varieties of tree fruits, and a large greenhouse.


For the first few years the couple sold blueberries in the fresh market, but the stiff competition from the increasing number of growers made them consider alternatives. “We started investigating value-added products and opted for fruit wine. George comes from a Swiss family who made wine out of anything available,” Marla said. Blue Moon’s tasting room opened in July 2009.


Customers can enjoy three types of fruit table wines - blueberry, raspberry/apple and black currant/apple. Along the way, winemaker Todd Moore, who now owns Quidni Estate Winery in Naramata, taught George the finer aspects of the craft.


“We were also lucky in being able to buy all the equipment from a grape winery on Quadra Island that was going out of business,” Marla said.


Blue Moon’s blueberry wine appears to have a promising future in the Chinese market as indicated by the warm reception given to the initial small test shipments. George, who has already visited China twice, is working on the final documentation required for export. “We also make five kinds of fortified fruit wines - plum, raspberry and blueberry, blackberry and blueberry/blackberry,” Marla said.


The blackberries are purchased from Cowichan First Nation suppliers and the other berries and plums are grown on-farm.


Blue Moon’s business took off like a shot shortly after George made his first still cider five years ago. “It was a major turning point for us and we immediately became absorbed with apples and all things apple,” Marla said.


A year after George’s first cider, the couple bought a state- of-the-art mobile apple press which allows them to blend their own apples and press for other farmers.


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016 23


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