Three generations at Davidson Orchards Country Village serve up their famous deep-dish pie, the bountiful produce or the North Okanagan and a cornucopia of fall fun.
Imagine strolling down a quaint street reminiscent of a country village in the 1930’s. Suddenly a scent wafts by - apples kissed by cinnamon baking in a buttery crust. You can’t resist. Wandering over to the bustling cafe, you order a slice. At a table on the patio, the valley views are sublime and children’s laughter from the playground mixes with the sound of a distant tractor. That very first taste delivers bliss!
Welcome to Davison Orchards Country Village, a working family farm nestled against the rolling hillside in the Bella Vista region of South Vernon – a place where there is only fun and the words of playwright, David Mamet, make perfect sense:
“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”
The Davison family serves much more than enticing confections. They provide an authentic farm experience, unique in today’s world of large commercial and factory farming operations. Their love of the land and passion about sustainable agriculture, fresh food and family tradition is an inspiration.
As the deep greens of summer morph into the fiery colours of autumn, the women of the Davison family share the fascinating story of the farm, their business...and your food.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Farming is not so much a single job, but a combination of vocations. With ten family members actively involved in the running of the farm, this couldn’t be truer for the Davisons.
Tom is the horticulturist, but Tamra, a city girl and professional designer, is responsible for creating the warm, country ambiance. She laughs, “I told Tom,‘You grow it. I’ll sell it.’”
Grandpa Bob at 84 years old is still active in the orchard, helping with pruning, giving tours, drinking coffee and sharing stories. “His favourite thing is to drive around in his quad and tell Tom what to do,” Tamra jokes.
Most days you can find 85-year old Dora (or Nana, as she is known by her grandkids) in the bakery preparing her famous pies. “Many of the recipes used on the farm originate from Nana’s recipe box. She’s our quality control person.” Tom and Tamra’s daughter, Leah, smiles, “She tastes everything.”
FARMING: A FAMILY TRADITION
In 1933, Tom and May Davison realized their collective dream to purchase land - the site of today’s Davison Orchards Country Village. Those early years were difficult, eking out a living from their MacIntosh Apple orchard and surviving the Great Depression.
Then disaster struck! Tom died, leaving May and her young nephew, Bob, responsible for the family farm. At twenty-one, Bob married Dora McKenzie, built a cabin and there they raised four children and two foster children.
Fast-forward many decades and a couple of generations - Bob and Dora, their eldest son, Tom (the namesake of his beloved, great-uncle), his wife Tamra and a number of their grown children, continue the family farming tradition.
CHANGE IS A GOOD THING!
In the 1980’s, Tom and Tamra – fresh out of college - returned to Vernon with a passion to join Tom’s father on the family farm.
“Bob was understandably cautious. Farming is risky business and he was concerned.” Tamra explains, “As it was, there was hardly enough money to support one family, let alone two. But Tom was determined...he wanted to farm with his dad. To be able to do that, we knew change was needed. We came up with this idea. Invite customers to the orchard, give them an authentic farm experience and sell them our produce – in essence direct marketing, a revolutionary concept in the mid-eighties. It wasn’t too hard to convince Tom’s dad that our idea was worth a try.”
It took many years and much hard work to make the transition from a traditional orchard, but today Davison Orchards is a thriving agri-tourism operation.
Tamra smiles. “We are very conservative people. We never spent more than we made, but we kept adding building on the end of building. Eventually we created a village street.”
Dressed in a unique theme that harkens back to its origins, the farm has expanded from the original 34 acres to the 100 currently under cultivation. In peak season it employs over 100 staff and each year about 330,000 people visit.
EAT FOOD LESS TRAVELLED
The popular Hundred-Mile Diet advocates consumption of foods grown within 100 miles of where you live. The folks at Davison Orchards do better. Leah explains:
“We are proud to be able to offer the Zero-Mile diet. Most of our produce and products have zero miles to travel. They are grown, or prepared from ingredients grown, right here on our farm.”
The Cannery cooks up soups, fudge, apple-cider donuts and preserves. Pies, breads and other baked goods are made on site at the Apple Crate Bakery, where a window allows visitors to view all that deliciousness being created.
Their freshly-pressed apple juice is sweet, yet tart and full of flavour. Tamra says, “People rave about it.” What’s the secret? “Great apples. We use at least five varieties and no windfalls. We use UV light to pasteurize the juice...no heat to destroy the flavour. Each four litre jug contains about thirty-five apples.”
These products, together with field-fresh, Okanagan fruits and vegetables, artisan specialty food items and unique country-style gifts, can be purchased from the abundantly stocked shelves of Nana’s Pantry, the Country Market and the Gift Shop.
You can take them home or, if hunger hits, head to Auntie May’s Deep Dish Cafe in the original 1949 farm house for a homemade breakfast, lunch or even just a sweet treat - farm to fork in the truest sense!
Knowing where your food comes from is arguably today’s biggest food trend. At Davison Orchards, taking the Johnny Popper Farm Tour, a ride through the orchards in a train of apple bins fitted with comfy seats being pulled by an antique tractor, is an interactive way to experience a working farm.
“In the fall expect to see fresh apples being harvested by the bushel,” Tamra says enthusiastically. “Also plum and peach trees...and vegetables, fields of sun ripened tomatoes, peppers, corn and....pumpkins!
EXPERIENCE FRESH-PICKED FUN
In autumn it’s all about the bountiful harvest and our pumpkin patch is something to behold – an ocean of orange as far as the eye can see. Kids love to pick out their own pumpkin. We create an enormous pumpkin castle... scarecrow-like Pumpkin People and a Pumpkin Butter Band that plays music. It’s so fun and heartwarming when our customers tell us it’s not fall until we’ve been to Davison Orchards.”
Stops on the orchard tour provide guests with opportunities to touch, smell and even taste in-season crops and question one of the Davison farmers about the story behind their food.
After the tour, the kids can run free, play and just, well...be kids in Crazy Cow Kids Corral, an enclosed, one-acre, farm-themed play area. But a farm isn’t a farm without critters! At the Critter Corral, children can watch, feed and interact with an assortment of farm animals.
With golden sunlight dancing across the changing landscape and a little nip in the autumn air, Okanagan Woman would like to take this opportunity to honour the farmers who feed us and celebrate the connection between their hard work and our food. We appreciate you...you can bet the farm on that!