Kamloops Branch Birds, Grapes and Ale Tour Summary

BCIA Kamloops Branch Birds, Grapes and Ale PD Tour Summary

By Terry Pratt

On September 15th, a group of 20 Kamloops Branch agrologists and friends set out to Salmon Arm and area for a day of marsh ecology, bird viewing, sustainable viticulture and wine tasting; and organic beer tasting. The day turned out as good as it sounds! We headed to Salmon Arm via tour bus and along the way, Mike Dedels, P.Ag, kept us entertained by pointing out invasive weed species like the Russian olive along the South Thompson River and yellow tansey in fields near Salmon Arm. Mike is the perfect commentator for this topic as as he was a Range Agrologist with the Province for many years and is now the Invasive Plant Management Coordinator for the Thompson Nicola Regional District. Andrew Petersen, P.Ag , is a Water Management Specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture. Andrew pointed out different irrigation systems along the way. 

At Salmon Bay, we met Di Wittner and Janet Aiken, naturalists from the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society (SABNES). We were also lucky to have Sharon Bennett, a Salmon Arm agrologist from the Vernon Branch and her husband, Scott, join us. Sharon and her family are new to Salmon Arm, having just arrived from Prince George. They learned about the tour from the BCIA Website and we were really happy to have them join us for the day.

Di and Janet led us along the Raven Trail which parallels Salmon Bay on Shuswap Lake. We learned that the land and marshlands are a composite of land owned by the City of Salmon Arm, Nature Trust BC, and the province. Salmon Arm Bay hosts the last big colony of nesting Western Grebes in BC and there is concern that nesting numbers are beginning to go down. The reason is not yet known, it could be deteriorating water quality in Shuswap Lake, increasing numbers of motorized and non-motorized boats disturbing the marshes or extreme weather events. On our tour we saw bald eagles, gulls, king fishers, American white pelicans and lots of ducks. The SABNES volunteer group has been instrumental in developing and maintaining the area for the local community to enjoy and learn about a very productive and important wetland. 

After the tour of the wetlands, the group went to Marionette Winery, just east of Salmon Arm and had a very insightful overview of sustainable viticulture and wine-making by winery owner Jamie Smith. Jamie described how natural wine-making differs from the more industrial approaches of the bigger wineries. Techniques Jamie uses includes natural water catchment for irrigation, not clearing the land before planting the vines in order to maintain the natural soil ecology, leaving existing heritage fruit trees on the land to mimic the historic farming ecosystem which helps with pest management. Parasitic wasps are attracted to the cherry and apple trees and stay away from the grapes. We had a delicious lunch catered by a local bakery while we over-looked the vineyard and sampled some delicious Pinot Noirs, Sur Leis and Puccinellas.

The final stop of our day was to Crannog Ales near Sorrento. Crannog is an organic farmhouse brewery that started in 2000 on a 10 acre farm where they grow their own hops and only use water from their natural aquifers. Crannog’s production is capped by what the land and aquifer produce. All the brewery by-products are re-used on the farm and the spent grain feeds the pigs, chickens and sheep, which in turn, fertilize the land. Greywater is used for irrigation, and the pigs drink any random beer leftovers. The farm and brewery are intertwined, creating a whole sustainable system…and the ales are delicious.

We highly recommend that you stop by any of these three sites if you are travelling through the Shuswap. 

Thank you to Terry Pratt and Andrew Petersen for the photos.  More photos of this tour are available on the BCIA website NEWS-Photos

Sunday, September 30, 2018