Kootenay Lake Markets and Local Food

Kootenay Lake Markets and Local Food

From the sources of Kootenay Lake to its outlet, there’s more than a common body of water that bonds communities together in the region. Visit an outdoor market and you’ll find that a shared passion for embracing local producers runs deep.  

Just as the Okanagan is celebrated as a fertile fruit cradle today, the Kootenay Lake region was renowned for its orchards in the late 19th and early 20th century. European newcomers, often with the help of Chinese labourers, bravely transformed the challenging terrain into suitable acreages. Multiple farms were established, with thousands of trees bearing prize apples, cherries, peaches and various other fruits. 

Early Doukhobor settlers were notable prodigious farmers, taming the land while practicing pacifist ways. A combination of disease, difficult transportation access and persecution dealt a blow to this promising agricultural sector. But the desire to grow locally has persisted. 

Growing their own veggies on farms, and in backyard gardens have flourished amongst locals along Kootenay Lake. A walk through back alleys and leafy streets reveals impressive home gardens growing everything from corn to cauliflower, raspberries to rhubarb, and tomatoes to turnips.

"Freshly grown fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious foods you can eat" notes Nelson resident Rosie Sheppard, whose family has worked with a neighbour to establish a shared garden. "We love to be able to feed our family with our own crops and supplement that with a selection of other produce from local farmers."  

With the help of creative programs like the Young Agrarians, new farms are popping up across the region. Daniel and Britta moved from Ontario earlier this year and launched Free Range Acres in Harrop. Using gentle farming practices, their aim is to create as much microbiology in the soil as possible to grow nutrient dense foods with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables. “The West Kootenay area has always called to us, aligning with our love of nature and wilderness; we’re small scale and grown with love.” Visitors will find all kinds of farmers like Daniel and Britta who are proud to showcase their fresh produce at local markets or door delivery.

Take a trip around Kootenay Lake, enjoying the scenic route of Highway 3A and Creston along the way. You'll be in awe of the open spaces and vibrant fields of glorious, varied agriculture. Restaurants in all the communities serve up these delicious local products: mouth watering, fresh, and local.

Nestled in a rich agricultural landscape near the mouth of Kootenay Lake, the Creston Valley Farmer’s Market is conveniently located in the heart of downtown, making it easy to explore local businesses and sights on foot. A taste of Creston’s finest fresh foods is available every Saturday through the summer, including well-known favourites such as asparagus, cherries and apples depending on the season. 

Multiple farms and fruit stands dot the road east of Creston, inviting visitors to discover freshly picked produce with friendly service. Kootenay Meadows also welcomes guests to taste their cheeses made on site, while their milk is available at retailers throughout the region. Locally grown eggs from Sunshine Valley Farms, organic grains from Treasure Life Flour Mills, top quality meats from Tarzwell Farms, and fresh salad greens from Cartwheel Farms are just some of the other specialties from the Creston Valley. 

Local producers are also hard at work at the end of a short but awe inspiring drive north of Kaslo into the north end of Kootenay Lake. The Lardeau Valley Sunday Market features a cozy gathering of farmers, a coffee vendor, a kombucha and elderberry tincture maker, and artisans including woodworkers and jewellery sellers. The market is set in a grassy field with grand mountain vistas next to the newly opened and renovated Meadow Creek Bar and Grill. It's a worthwhile stop for those exploring local sites such as Duncan Lake, the Meadow Creek spawning channel, Lardeau Valley museum, old growth forests and scenic lakefront campgrounds.

Nestled on the shores of Kootenay Lake, the colourful Village of Kaslo comes alive in the summer, especially on Saturdays. The weekly market is set up in the main downtown park beside the Kaslo Hotel, offering unbeatable lake and mountain views and various local providers. The festival-like atmosphere is a community staple, complete with farmers from the region, a tarot reader, flower vendors, and fresh baked goods from popular Croissant Moon. Although live music and art are on hiatus this year, the more spaced out setting provides a safe space for market goers. 

It’s a similar story in Nelson’s Cottonwood market, where new open spaces have created a more spread out feel to the Wednesday and Saturday markets. The market is a short walk from Nelson’s historic Baker Street, tucked away in a purpose built area abutting a Cottonwood Waterfall and peaceful Japanese gardens. Embracing a “make it, bake it, harvest it” philosophy, market organizers are proud to feature providers from within a 150km radius that include farmers and prepared food vendors. Local organizations have worked hard to cultivate the market for more than a decade, contributing to the Nelson's dining reputation for embracing high quality nearby independent growers and makers. 

The longstanding Kootenay Co-op grocery store’s emphasis on “true local flavour” showcases Nelson producers year-round, ranging from dips to veggie pates, gelato to crackers, and salad dressings to specialty cakes. Multiple bakeries, breweries, coffee roasters, and restaurants share a passion for quality ingredients and distinctive flavours. The  “Grocery Store”, a book by local food guru Jon Steinman, profiles Nelson’s Kootenay Coop as one of the best grocery stores in North America. Impressive.

A shared sense of remoteness, good health and community pride in the region has long made residents look to their own backyard for their needs. From Creston to Nelson over the Salmo/Creston Pass and along the shores of Kootenay Lake, small producers continue to hone their craft, drawing inspiration from previous generations and the natural beauty and bounty that surround them. We invite you to discover their labours of love throughout our communities and beyond. 

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