Stephan Splinter of Vernon and Len Boyte of Mabel Lake unload some of the hundreds of trees grown in Trinity Valley that will be sold during the Christmas season in Vernon.
The farm started in 1993 after Jim Ilott approached BC Hydro about a stretch of land he discovered in Trinity Valley with beautiful Douglas fir trees growing on it. The trees under the hydro line were thriving, and it seemed a waste not to make use of the natural crop.
Hydro agreed to a land-sharing project that it already had in place with cattle producers to use hydro lines as summer range. The project has been a 20-year success story. Hydro no longer has to mulch the trees growing on the land, and Trinity Valley Christmas Trees has provided Okanagan families with locally grown Christmas trees for more than 15 years.
Ilott opened the first retail lot in Vernon in 1995. A few years later, Trinity Valley Christmas Trees expanded to Kelowna. Today, there are four outlets at the Canadian Tires stores in Kelowna, Westbank, Vernon and Penticton.
This type of farm provides the most sustainable choice for a real tree. The trees growing on the underutilized land hold the soil in place and provide habitat for all kinds of wildlife. No herbicides or pesticides are applied. The trees are cultured for several years, providing work for local people, who shape them into the ideal Christmas tree. When they are ready for harvest, they are replaced by natural seeding, beginning they cycle again.
Ilott likes to find specialty trees from other B.C. growers to share with his customers. He's also a tree-planting contractor, so he works in some form of silviculture year-round.
"It's nice to be involved in work that creates something positive, whether that's new forests or Christmas trees," Ilott said.
Trees from Trinity Valley have become a holiday staple in the Okanagan, with kids who started coming in the early days now bringing their own kids.
"We see the same faces year after year. We are part of a tradition of the family picking the perfect tree," Ilott said.