Dave and Arlene Sloan's continuing success as growers rests squarely on their ability to change with the times. Here, they examine O'Henry peach blossoms on their farm near Okangan Falls.
SUSAN MCIVER Change: The key to success
Fromcrop choices to marketingmethods, Matheson Creek Farm has been in constant transition.
By Susan McIver D 10
ave and Arlene Sloan’s ability to change with the times underlies the continuing
success of Matheson Creek Farm on Eastside Road in Okanagan Falls. For more than 30 years, the couple have kept current on production techniques and marketing strategies. “You can get left behind very quickly,” said Dave, who with Arlene is an active member of several growers’ associations.
Today, they grow a wide variety of tree fruits, grapes, berries and ground crops
Over the years, their marketing methods have expanded to include selling directly to the customer. In 2001, they opened their on-farm stand, Straw Bale Produce, which, as the name implies, is an attractive adobe-like building constructed of straw bales.
Arlene explained that she and Dave wanted to put more fun into the way they were farming.
Previously, they sold most of their produce to a co-op and some at the Penticton Farmers’ Market. Direct marketing not only brings the Sloans into contact with customers, which they enjoy, but also means a higher percentage return to them.
“Now we sell only a small percentage of our fruit to the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative,” Dave said.
The story of Matheson Creek Farm started in 1948, when Dave’s parents, Scottish immigrants, bought 300 acres of raw land that extended from the shoreline of Skaha Lake east to
the top of adjacent hills.
“My father planted 10 acres in fruit trees and my mother established a medical practice,” Dave said. Over the next decades, the senior Sloans gradually sold pieces of their land to subsidize the operation of their mixed fruit farm.
A few years after his father’s death, Dave and Arlene, who had been working at the Summerland Trout Hatchery and a bank, respectively, agreed to take over the farm for a year until his mother could find someone to run it.
“We liked it and bought the farm in 1978,” Arlene said.
At the time of purchase, the holdings had dwindled from 300 to 25 acres, only 10 of which were planted.
Almost immediately Dave and Arlene expanded production capacity by clearing an additional eight acres on the upper level, installing water pumps and planting grapes. In 1988, they pulled out the original vines and replanted five
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2010
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