Pilgrims’ Produce is a certified organic farm in the Okanagan Valley growing excellent veggies, fruits, herbs and nuts for our local community on just under 14 acres.
We marry modern organic practices with tried and true techniques. For example, for season extension we use high-tunnel greenhouses; for pest management, row-covers; for weed control, stale-bedding, flame-weeding and old-fashioned hoeing! With fruit and nut orchards, some using permaculture principles, a wild habitat area, berries, plus about 7 acres planted in garden-style veggies from Asparagus to Zucchini, this farm has a lot going on!
Setting Down Roots
It all began in 1991 when Robert and Kathryn Hettler and their four children returned from working with poor farmers in Brazil. Robert felt a sense of calling to grow organic food in a sustainable way for our local community.
While Pilgrims’ Produce celebrated it’s 30th farming season in April of 2021, the farm hands officially changed and the first solo year for the new owners began. Robert and Kathryn Hettler are now enjoying retirement life while Dan and Kat Saxton and family are continuing their farming adventure!
Why Our Name?
The Christian allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, came to Rob and Kathryn’s minds since they felt like pilgrims going from Alberta to Brazil to BC. As well, the word “pilgrims” brought images of simple old-fashioned methods of farming before the days of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Meet the Farmers
Dan was born to do this job! With a passion to match his work ethic, he’s a natural at farming! Dan is the main workhorse here, managing the production of the crops from planting and irrigating to harvesting, organizing the crew and selling at the Farmers’ Markets. With his steady, positive personality, never disheartened by a rainy day, he is a joy to have around. When not farming, Dan is out having fun with his four kiddos or enjoying a coffee with Kat.
Kat has been involved in farming for over 2 decades! Starting in the fresh-cut flower industry in Ontario as a young teen, she’s tried her hand at forestry, greenhouse operations, ranching and beekeeping. She first joined the crew at Pilgrims’ Produce to learn about veggie production over a dozen years ago. The common thread in all these experiences has been a love for the outdoors, working with her hands and enjoying the beauty of the natural world. Kat handles the office tasks for running the farm business and loves to get her hands in the dirt when she can. Also filling her time and heart are their four young children, who are happy to join in many farming adventures!
Robert and Kathryn Hettler, along withe their children, spent several years working with small-scale farmers in fruit and vegetable production in Brazil. They came back to Canada with a passion to grow healthy food in a sustainable manner using organic methods. Over the years, Robert and Kathryn have both played a big role in our community’s local food system. They have not only grown food, but farmers too! Both Dan and Kat Saxton were mentored by the Hettlers at Pilgrims’ Produce, where their dream to continue the legacy began.
Since its inception over 30 years ago, Pilgrims’ Produce has been committed to certified organic practices. We value our customers (neighbours, family, friends, the local community!) and we are proud to offer some of the best food around. Small scale organic farming allows us to be focused on the land and taking care of it for ourselves and for future generations and our customers too.
Why does organic matter?
Recognizing that the ecosystems which surround us are more complex and dynamic than most of us understand, we seek to work with the natural world as much as possible. It takes good healthy soil – biologically active – to produce nutrient-dense plants which will result in healthy people. We are committed long-term to our small parcel of land and the community that surrounds it. Like Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, we believe that by focusing on the “wonders and realities of this universe about us, the less taste we shall have for its destruction.”
For further insight on why organic matters, see “Why Buy Organic?“
We have enjoyed being part of your CSA program this year.
Your newsletter is fun and informative. We are always excited about what surprises are coming. The variety of veggies is wonderful and we have been introduced to some interesting food (like celeriac and garlic curls!) that we never had before. Fabulous. Thank you for all your hard work.
I also appreciate knowing the people who grow our food. It makes the meal taste richer. As a gardener, one of the highlights was my conversations with Dan over the bins in the parking lot, comparing notes and exchanging tips.
Thank you for your service this season!