A Visit to Covert Farms

By Brenda Evans, Master Gardener

Covert Farms isn’t your typical farm. In fact, as someone from the prairies, it’s not what I think of as a farm at all. Covert Farms is primarily a 650-acre vineyard and winery nestled in the breathtaking beauty of the Okanagan Valley.

You may remember seeing an episode of the Amazing Race Canada where contestants had a detour challenge at Covert Farms where one option was to complete an obstacle course involving tossing sacks of potatoes or swinging off monkey bars over manure. Or you may have discovered Covert Farms when it was featured on Ventures in Wine Country, a You-Tube series, as I did. Or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard the name. At any rate, it’ll be on your radar now.

Like most wineries there were tastings and tours available. Climbing into the ‘52 Mercury truck with our first sample of an award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon was just the beginning of the fun we had on the Harvest Tour.

What makes this vineyard stand out is its farming practices. Organic production began in 2005 and in 2018 regenerative farming practices were implemented. Where other vineyards appear beautifully manicured, this vineyard has a wild, unkempt look. A diverse selection of plantings, including flax, lentils, mustard and turnip is planted under the vines to assist with soil rebalancing (bacteria/ fungi), provide pollinator habitat, and add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. None of these plant choices will grow tall enough to interfere with airflow or light to the vines. Resident livestock- cows, llamas and pigs roam the vineyards freely, “cleaning up” and spreading manure to benefit both them and the soil. Cruising through the vineyard beneath iconic McIntyre Bluff you have to think these animals have it pretty darn good.

Where other vineyards may have a second dripline for pesticide distribution these vines require just one. There are multiple water tanks and rain barrels to store and provide greater water holding capacity and by maintaining cover crops throughout the season they’re able to capture dew for the vines as well. By 2025 Covert Farms plans to have incorporated the principles of a ‘dry farm’ to capture all the typical 250-300mm of precipitation in this area eliminating the requirement of additional irrigation altogether.

As you’d expect, the Harvest Tour includes a little harvesting, either of grapes right off the vine or of a large selection of produce from the organic produce and U-pick patch. Seasonal produce is also available for purchase at the store alongside fresh honey harvested from the large grouping of beehives situated nearer to the vineyard. A spacious barnyard housed chickens and other poultry, a couple of very large pigs and a day-old lamb and her mom who all have symbiotic relationships with the farm.

In keeping with the program, Covert Farms has also been recognized and labelled “Salmon-Safe” for its conservation practices protecting water quality and restoring the wildlife habitat in this salmon watershed. For more information on this certification program which was established in Oregon in 1996 go to www.salmonsafe.ca, and to learn more about Covert Farms visit covertfarms.ca. Or better yet, plan a road trip to the Okanagan and experience it for yourself!