Meet Matt & Molly Thurston, Hosts Of The Hotly Anticipated Okanagan Feast Of Fields
by Michelle Sproule | FarmFolk CityFolk’s annual local food celebration, Feast of Fields, is finally on the horizon. The highly anticipated gathering of foodies, farmers, fishers, brewers, ranchers and chefs from across BC brings people together to celebrate the best of our own backyard. We’ve gone to each one to date and left stuffed and glowing every year. It all takes place on Sunday, August 12th at Claremont Ranch in Winfield, BC – just outside of Kelowna in beautiful Lake Country. We caught up with Claremont’s owners, Matt and Molly Thurston, to ask them a few questions about their farm and to get a feel for what to expect when we make the trek to see them in a few weeks. Seriously, if you can swing one weekend away this summer, this should be it. Some shots of past Okanagan FoF…
So where are you originally from? Matt is from Oshawa, Ontario and Molly is from Kelowna, BC. We met as Agriculture Science students at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
How did your connection to food begin: At home with a mother and grandmother who were great gardeners and cooks. Molly’s first job was at the Pioneer Country Market in Kelowna, working in the garden and kitchen, helping with canning and processing. Matt’s first job was on a friend’s dairy farm in Oshawa. We both fell in love with agriculture as teenagers and haven’t looked back since.
What was your background before taking on Claremont Ranch Organics? We both graduated in 2004 from the University of Guelph in Agriculture Science. After graduation we moved to Lethbridge to work in seed production for 8 months before heading off to WWOOF in the UK for another 3 months. In 2005, we settled in Kelowna – Matt worked as a vineyard manager at CedarCreek Estate Winery and Molly, as a Horticulturist at the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative. Matt left the vineyards and went to Farm Credit Canada in 2007. Molly continues to work for the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative and is completing a Masters at UBC Okanagan in soil microbiology. We began farming in 2006 with Bob and Sharon McCoubrey and continued to lease land from them until finalizing the purchase of the farm in January, 2011. We moved into the farmhouse in September, 2011.
What is something about your farm that most people wouldn’t know: The farm is celebrating 100 years this year! We are so excited to be hosting the ultimate birthday celebration with the Feast of Fields!
Most unusual place you have seen a food-producing garden: In the middle of high-rises and traffic chaos in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh with a population of over 16 million people.
The dish you’re most proud of: Meatballs with home-made, Asian-style plum sauce.
What are you listening to as you answer these questions: CBC Radio 2.
Three words that best describe your farm: Beautiful, local, organic.
What is it about your job that gets you in to work everyday: Being outside, fresh air and good food. Seeing people enjoy visiting our farm and leaving with a better understanding of organic agriculture and the importance of local food systems.
The first three things you do every morning: Check the chickens, water the plants and then eat breakfast.
Three things about your farm that make you want to live there: We love all of it! To name only three: the beautiful 100-year old home, gorgeous gardens for relaxing and entertaining, and finally, there is an amazing energy about the whole place.
Absolutely your favourite crop from Claremont Ranch Organics: Such a tough question! It really depends on the season…first it’s the strawberries and raspberries out of the kitchen garden, then the apricots – picked fresh off the tree. Matt loves the peaches but of course there are also the pears…
Favourite Winfield attraction: The Lake Country Coffee House and Lake Country Art Gallery. It really is a hub of activity in the community, with good food, coffee and art – all right next door. The Art Gallery is staffed by local volunteers and hosts many local artists, including students throughout the year.
Best place to jump in cold water close by the farm: Nothing feels better than jumping in the lake after a day of harvesting on the farm. We head down to Okanagan Centre on the shores of Okanagan Lake – there is this great little rocky beach next to a vineyard where we like to go swimming with our dog, Abby. It’s beautiful and private, the perfect place to watch the sunset with a little wine and cheese.
Community event or festival that you look forward to every year: The Art Walk is a favourite of ours. This 3 day event is held on the Labour Day weekend in public spaces in the heart of Lake Country and features many community and other artists’ work in so many different media – photography, print making, fibre arts, water colours, sculpture and more. Each year has an over-arching theme and this year is a celebration of “Art for Change”. Check out this year’s show here. Our mentor, Sharon McCoubrey, is the Chairperson of the committee and works tirelessly on the event. We decided about 5 years ago, when we first started farming in Lake Country and attending the Art Walk, that we would try to save up to buy a work of art every year. We were always inspired by the work at Art Walk and have bought some of our favourite pieces at the show – including an awesome piece called ‘Moving On’ by Julie Elliot of Oyama, which hangs in our bedroom.
Best Okanagan beach: The beach at Paul’s Tomb, at the base of Knox Mountain along Okanagan Lake is a favourite – along with the beach at Cosens Bay on Kalamalka Lake.T here’s a little bit of a hike in and out of both of these beaches, but they are definitely worth the effort!
One thing you’d like to change about Winfield: It used to be that we wanted a sushi restaurant, but now we have one (Osho) and it is fabulous! We look forward to seeing the development of the Winfield town centre. It is underway and we’re excited to have more commerce locally.
Local place to grab dinner: Ricardo’s, we love the pasta here! Awesome food and Okanagan winelist, plus it is just across the highway from us. We started a new tradition last year of having our end-of-harvest celebratory meal at Ricardo’s. There’s lots of great eating in Lake Country – the Greek House is another favourite; Gray Monk Winery and the new sushi restaurant, Osho.
Best cup of coffee in the Winfield area? Lake Country Coffee House.
Favourite season: Spring – new beginnings, planting. Fall – harvest and celebrations!
Local person you admire most: Bob and Sharon McCoubrey, our mentors and the most community-oriented people we have ever met!
Describe your favourite meal: Pesto pizzas on the BBQ, made with our own basil, onions, tomatoes, etc. Eating out on the back patio under the giant maple tree, with a glass of local wine.
It’s going to be an amazing event, and we’ll see you there. Where to stay? We’re looking at mixing things up. Maybe one night camping and then the next at the always trusty waterfront Eldorado or The Cove, a lakeside joint that we’ve never checked out before.
Sunday, August 12 | Claremont Ranch Organics | 1-5pm | Tickets here