The triangular piece of land seen in the photo is Pilgrims' 13.7 acre farm, located just east of highway 97A on Eagle Rock Road. The old farm house was built in 1905 and renovated in the mid-1980's. We Hettlers had worked with small farmers for six years in northeast Brazil so felt a little like pilgrims on a journey when we moved our family here from Alberta in 1991. As a family we'd been reading John Bunyan's classic allegory, The Pilgrim's Progress, so decided Pilgrims' Produce might be an appropriate name. We were determined to grow good food by organic principles and hoped the name would convey the idea of wholesome, old-fashioned vegetables, grown without petro-chemical products and pesticides.
Rob came from a mixed farm family and had a degree in agriculture from the University of Alberta but learning to grow organically put him on a steep learning curve. Elliott Coleman's books provided inspiration and practical help but long hours of hard labour were required to get rid of quackgrass and to plant trees, berries and vegetables in those early years.
In addition to our germination greenhouse, we put up plastic "high tunnels" over the soil in order to extend the growing season. We now have six of them, over 15,000 square feet, where we grow early greens, baby carrots and beets and transplant our tomato, cucumber and pepper seedlings right into the soil. The tunnels with roll-up sides are especially versatile through hot summers and cool falls.
Inspired by permaculture principles, we have been diversifying our farm in recent years. We have planted more perennial foods such as asparagus, fruit and nut trees, as well as a variety of berry crops such as raspberries, saskatoons, sour cherries, black currants, chokecherries, and small amounts of haskap (honeyberries) and sea buckthorn.
In 2003 Pilgrims' Produce was given The Armstrong/Spallumcheen Agriculture award and in 2006 The Okanagan Branch of B.C. Institute of Agrologists honoured us as Farm Family of The Year for Outstanding Service to the Okanagan Agricultural Industry. In 2012 Rob was given The Founder's Award by the Certified Organic Association of British Columbia.
We have really been blessed by the many great workers who have made positive contributions not only to the production of good organic food but also to the life of this community. For 2018 we have Dan and Kat Saxton partnering on the farm with Rob and Kathryn Hettler.