Bill Doak picks some of the bumper crop of Italian honey figs from the tree at his you-pick farm at Stepping Stones Estates in Spallumcheen.

Bill Doak picks some of the bumper crop of Italian honey figs from the tree at his you-pick farm at Stepping Stones Estates in Spallumcheen.

A taste of Italy in Spallumcheen

Bill and Lovena Doak grow ripe, juicy figs along with many other fruits in their North Okanagan garden

While other local gardeners are happy to see a few leaves on their fig trees, Bill Doak is wondering how to use his abundant fig crop.

“I’ve always liked growing things. Whenever I plant something, it grows,” said the super gardener, who grew up in Manitoba, not really liking gardening because he was made to do it.

He had a hobby farm while he worked as an engineer in Alberta and when he and his wife, Lovena, originally from Jamaica, retired to their two acres near Vernon in 2002, their garden blossomed.

The you-pick farm has every kind of fruit, berry and vegetable anyone has heard of and some most people have never heard of.

“We preserve the food and live off it most of the year. People should realize what grows here and how important it is to have local agriculture. We should never be in a position where much of our food supply could be cut off for some unforeseen circumstance,” said Doak, who has designed ingenious water and heating systems and maintains the farm equipment himself.

The fig tree started as an experiment. He got a few cuttings of the Italian honey fig (Latturula) from fellow garden club member Bill Hickey.

“It’s grown this big in about seven years and I’ve cut it back a lot,” he gestured to the tree, which is at least 15 feet high and could grow 25 feet high.

“I cover it with a tarp in the winter and cut it back in the spring. It has no natural predators and has two crops a year. I’ve had some interest from a fancy restaurant in Kelowna that likes to use local produce so I’ll be interested to see what they make with the figs. We like to just eat them fresh and dry them.”

Bill and Lovena’s garden has been described by some visitors as the Garden of Eden for its peaceful atmosphere and the soft music kept playing in the background.

“People like to come here for the experience of picking their produce in the garden and maybe have a drink and some conversation after,” said Doak, who is also a metal worker, musician, writer and thinker. He has a blog at www.hohtdoak.com.

Lovena, who is a former university instructor and human rights advocate through the University Women’s Club and other community organizations, also keeps busy in the garden. She led a tour.

“Bill is a Renaissance man. He has made so many things for the farm,” she said proudly. “We both enjoy gardening and having our hands in the earth and sharing what we grow. It’s paradise here with all the birds and butterflies and the flowers and plants. There was very little here when we moved here, but the garden just kept growing.

“We like to try things. Taste these yellow raspberries and maybe there is a strawberry left. We are so blessed. Some people don’t have enough to eat and we have this garden.”

As gardeners do, Bill is already thinking about next year.

“I think I’ll try grafting some different kinds of figs on the tree in the spring and see how they do,” he said.

 

 

Vernon Morning Star

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