acres in viniferous varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, which continue in production today. “Fives acres is the right size for us. They act as insurance if our other crops don’t do well and we have time to tuck and position shoots in the few weeks between thinning soft fruits and apples,” Arlene said. Grapes are sold to neighbouring Blasted Church Winery, only a five- minute tractor ride away. Ten years ago, Dave and Arlene planted one-half acre of several varieties of seedless table grapes that mature from mid-August through October.
“Vanessa is the most popular with our customers. Sovereign Coronation also sells well,” Arlene said. The table grapes, plus raspberries and a spectrum of vegetables ranging from tomatoes and cucumbers to corn and beans, are grown specifically for Straw Bale customers. “We’re constantly changing the mix of what we offer,” Dave said. In the early 1980s, the Sloans began replacing the original 120 apple trees per acre with high-density plantings.
“An average of 1,800 trees per acre is workable and cost-efficient for us,” Dave said. “That means the best balance between cost of trees and labour, time until return and amount of return.”
Matheson Creek orchards produce many varieties of apples, including Jonagold, Spartans, Fuji, Gala and Winter Banana.
“Sunrise, which matures in early August, has been our staple at the farmers’ market,” said Arlene. “We also grow Macs for our Saskatchewan customers.”
Ambrosia, Honeycrisp, Pinova, Nicola and Pink Lady are among the more recent plantings.
The Aurora Golden Galas are slated for removal because the fruit bruises so easily.
Two rambling old style Golden Delicious trees are kept to show visitors.
“After replanting 2.5 times, we’re happy with our current mix of varieties. However, we will continue to follow the trends,” Dave said. The same care and attention is given to soft fruits as to apples. Matheson Creek Farm produces eight varieties of peaches, starting
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FANTASTIC LOCATION! Over 7 acres of
with Rising Star, which ripens in early August, and ending with O’ Henry in mid-September. White-fleshed Blushing Star is a
winner once customers taste it. Picked in the morning and
available at the produce stand by noon, Sloan peaches receive rave reviews.
“Holy smokes, I’ve never tasted anything like that,” said a customer accustomed to the taste of two- to three-week-old peaches sold by grocery chains.
The Sloans also grow eight varieties of plums and prunes and three of nectarines.
“I’m so hooked on pears and am thrilled by Concordes,” Arlene said, referring to the popular all-purpose variety derived from Conference and Comice pears.
Golden Russet Bosc, Aurora and Bartletts are also grown.
Arlene’s detailed record-keeping has contributed significantly to their making the best decisions responsible for successful transitioning over the past three decades.
“I keep a journal of everything we
do—weather conditions, production level and returns,” she said. Active promoters of agri-tourism, the Sloans have played significant roles in drawing international attention to the Okanagan Valley. Last September, a German crew spent a day at Matheson Creek Farm filming a television documentary on B.C. farm families that was seen by more than 100 million French and German viewers in conjunction with the 2010 Winter Olympics. “They wanted to know everything, including how our family ended the work day. So we took them water skiing. They loved it,” Arlene said. The Sloans have three children: Erin, Kristen and James, aged 20, 18 and 17, respectively.
Matheson Creek Farm was featured in an article, Savor the Okanagan, several years ago in Sunset, The Magazine of Western Living, which has a circulation of 1.4 million with many times that in pass-along readership.
“One California woman told me that she saw the article while lying on a beach at home and just had to come for a visit,” Arlene said.
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