Harvest Town: Cowichan Valley

With more than 700 farms (and one of B.C.’s largest farmers markets, in Duncan), the place that James Barber called Canada’s Provence is the only region in the country where you’ll find emu, ostrich, and alpaca products, plus everything from nuts and wild mushrooms to tea and heritage-grain bread, all in one valley.

By Charlene Rooke


At Merridale Cidery & Distillery, B.C.’s oldest estate cidery, you can book a farm tour, go “glamping” in luxe orchard yurts, enjoy Sunday pizza nights with live entertainment or drink in the Cider Harvest Festival on September 29.


Alderlea Farm CafĂ©, just five kilometres from Duncan and open Friday to Sunday, welcomes cycling groups for refuelling stops of field-fresh food, and even has a two-bedroom loft guesthouse for longer stays. There’s wood-fired pizza topped with local goodies every Sunday afternoon, too. The farm-curious will want to sign up for the farm’s multi-week biodynamic growing workshop, for an insider look at traditional, sustainable cultivation.

Don’t pick in the wild without expert tutelage from chef, cookbook author and mycologist Bill Jones, who leads morel and other wild-food foraging tours out of Deerholme Farm (a 10-minute drive southwest of Duncan). Weekend cooking classes, farm-to-table dinners (including an Italian mushroom feast in September and a duck and mushroom dinner in October) are other reasons to visit during harvest season.


Cheese please? Groups of 10 or more can book a tour and tasting at nearby Haltwhistle Cheese Co., where 100 resident goats, plus milk from nearby Balme Ayr Farm, make 15 cheeses, including feta, gooey-soft washed-rind rounds and a nutty, earthy alpine tomme de valee, considered their signature nible.

Canada’s only commercial tea grower, Westholme Tea Farm outside of Duncan, has farm tours every Thursday and Sunday, and stirs both a hot cuppa and the soul in its tearoom and farm art gallery. Yellow Point Cranberries in Ladysmith offers free harvest-season tastings on certain dates and ticketed, guided farm tours followed be a tasting of cranberry juice and baked goodies.


There are also 14 wineries and three craft distilleries in the valley, and eight brewery stops between Duncan and Sayward on the Vancouver Island Part 1 leg of the B.C. Ale Trail (bcaletrail.ca). Outside the late-August Cowichan Valley Wine Festival, you can visit many winery tasting rooms on a self-guided tour (download the map at tourismcowichan.com/activities/sip-savour)–or with a variety of local tour companies.

Posted in Fall 2019