Luke and Crystal Morrison and their children are the proud new owners of Spencer Hill Orchard, in Grand Forks. The former owners of this iconic organic farm hoped someone would keep the orchard going when they had to put it up for sale. Luckily for all of us the region, the passionate Morrison family fell in love with Spencer Hill. Bringing new ideas and a great deal of care and hard work to the farm, the Morrison’s have just completed their first full season at their new home. Among their bounty this year is fresh pressed organic apple juice, which we are happy to have on our Co-op’s shelves. Here at the Kootenay Co-op we want to extend a warm welcome to the Morrison family! Welcome to the Kootenays; we are very grateful to have you and your farm in our region!
Read on to learn more about this great True Local Supplier…
Who are the farmers at Spencer Hill Orchard?
Luke and Crystal Morrison, with their children Amelia, Kayla, and Logan.
How long have you been farming?
“I grew up on a large commercial chicken farm owned by my grandfather,” says Luke, “and I wanted to get back to farming, but not in the modern industrial form. We found this orchard for sale by pure chance. At the time we were not even looking to buy in the Kootenays, but we fell in love immediately when we first saw the listing and took possession October 2015.”
The former owner of Spencer Hill orchard, Sheila Dobie, really hoped someone who wanted to carry on the orchard would come along when she and her partner had to put it up for sale. “I’d just love it if this farm, that we’ve put our heart and soul into, would go to people who really want to farm,” wrote Dobie. “It’s such an important part of our local food system and so connected to people in the area, it’s really a gem.”
Happy to see a keen farming family on the property, Sheila has helped the Morrison’s get acquainted with their new farm. “Sheila has been amazing,” says Crystal. “When we first moved here she took the time to give us the tour of the property, going over everything that is here and how things work. Any questions we have she is always willing to answer or time permitting she will come show us. She has been a huge help.”
What motivated you to make this big move and buy an orchard?
“We love good food. And we wanted our children to grow up in a healthy environment where they would have the opportunities I had growing up,” says Luke. “I also wanted to live a lifestyle that would allow me to spend more time at home with my family.”
What do you grow at Spencer Hill?
Our main focus is the orchard, made up of 375 trees. Some of the trees are very old and date back to the original Doukhobor farm. The orchard was revamped and many trees were replaced in the 1970’s, and only a few have been replaced since then. We have 22 types of apples, four types of pears, and a variety of stone fruits including several cherries and plums.
We also have a vegetable garden, green house, and a bunch of animals that help with cleaning up the orchard and garden at various times of the year. Among the animals are heritage pigs, turkeys, geese, and a lot of chickens which provide most of our fertilizer in return.
How would you describe your farm?
Our goal is to grow safe organic products, and only produce and sell food that we feel good about serving to our own family. We are starting some programs using the animals for pest control, tillage, and mowing to make our farm even more sustainable than the organic requirements, as well as to provide a wider variety of food for us from the same land. We are also bringing in a herd of milk goats that will be included in our crop rotations of our fields for the same purpose. It is our hope that more of these products will be available for sale as time goes on.
What are some of your greatest joys?
Family and food.
What are some of your greatest challenges?
Starting over in a new community with a new farm and new learning curves on a regular basis.
What is your vision for your farm?
“I would like to increase the number of products we offer and make a sustainable living from the farm,” says Luke. “I want to keep improving our methods to grow the cleanest healthiest food possible for my family and our customers.”
“I’m really focused on trying to get input from people of the community,” adds Crystal, “I would love to grow more of the things that people want but may not be able to find easily.”
Spencer Hill Orchard has also traditionally been a gathering place with a gallery and events, and Crystal is looking forward to reviving that tradition. “I’m looking into planning some events at the orchard that are family friendly, which can hopefully feature local talent such as musicians and artists.”
Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
Community support is reciprocal and reinforcing: by buying from a local small business you are helping your neighbors who will in turn be better able to support you and buy the things they want. Every individual in the community who is strengthened makes the whole community stronger. We also like to know where our food comes from and what went into it.
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members/customers, what would it be?
“Eat well and live well, was a saying of my mom’s…I like to try to listen,” says Luke. “Thank you for welcoming us to the Kootenays and to the Kootenay Co-op!”