By Steve Hubrecht

A local farmer couple are finalists for the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) farmers’ market vendor of the year award.

Tegart Farming, owned and operated by the Columbia Valley’s Rick and Dianna Tegart, was up for the award and although the winner had been been decided at the BCAFM’s virtual awards ceremony the weekend prior to press time, the Pioneer had been unable to confirm the results with the BCAFM before press deadline. When the Pioneer contacted the couple about being finalists, Rick was as modest as any farmer would be.

“It was a surprise, but we are delighted,” he told the Pioneer. “To be nominated and be a finalist is humbling. It’s an honour and it’s nice that somebody else out there recognizes the work we do put in.”

Tegart Farming operates two properties between Radium Hot Springs and Edgewater: the Upper Ranch, which they lease, and on which they raise cattle and hay and have an apiary, and their home property three kilometres to the north, which has another apiary and their market garden.

“We’ve been doing three local farmers’ markets for a number of years now,” said Rick: the downtown Invermere Farmers’ and Artists’ Market on Saturday mornings, the Argi Park Farmer’s Market hosted at the crossroads Agri Park by the Windermere District Farmers’ Institute (WDFI) on Wednesday evenings, and the Radium Market on Main on Friday evenings.

At these markets, the Tegarts offer an entire A-to-Z-alphabet’s worth of produce, from arugula through to zucchini. “Everything we can, as the growing seasons allow,” said Rick.

They start in the spring, with microgreens and other spring greens from their garden. “Then, as the season goes on, we just keeping adding (other produce items) to the mix. At the end of last year, we were even selling honeydew melons and cantaloupe grown right here in the Columbia Valley,” said Rick.

Wait, don’t cantaloupes and most other melons typically grow in very arid regions? They do, but indeed you can grow them here in the Columbia Valley: Dianna and Rick start them in hoop houses (which are sheltered, but not heated), and even then, it’s not easy. “Something like cantaloupes, we are really stretching the season to do them here in the valley,” said Rick.

Both Dianna and Rick are fourth-generation farmers in the Columbia Valley, and each had great grandparents who moved here many decades ago to farm. It’s a heritage and lifestyle they are proud of.

“I like the idea of being responsible for myself,” Rick told the Pioneer. “In the fall and the winter, I look down at my supper plate, and I know that almost everything on it is something we grew.”

Farming is hard work, but Rick can’t imagine living any other way. “I like the challenges involved in agriculture,” he said. “It’s quite an intellectual process, with all the planning. It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But I love working with livestock, and being outdoors, and that does have benefits.”

The BCAFM awards are given out each year to outstanding farmers’ markets, market managers, vendors, partners, volunteers and municipalities that add value to their communities and the farmers’ market sector.