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The Kuurne farm: A hotbed of connectivity

Like most small farming communities, the threads tying together farmers and farms in Pemberton Valley overlap and intertwine like a free-form tapestry.

Maybe it's the isolated nature of the place — the same isolation that spurred it to become one of the top seed potato producing areas in Canada — or maybe it's its singular beauty that keeps people sticking around, but there seems to be an extra layer of interconnectivity in the community, and one of the richest loci is Roxy and Mark Kuurne's farm.

Mark's mom and dad, Petter and Aino Kuurne, came to Canada from Finland in the 1950s when it looked like Russia's Iron Curtain was descending on their homeland. Petter first worked in the gold mine at Bralorne before buying land in Pemberton to farm. That legacy has stayed in the valley.

Now, after years away daughter, Carrie, has returned with her husband, Remi Charron — both of them engineers — along with their children, Maxine, 5, and Cedric, 6, to take up farm life, mostly for the kids' sake.

"We wanted them to be able to learn things they couldn't in the city, and I think they have officially become farm kids," says Carrie.

"We were out picking beans this afternoon and when I found them they were all covered in mud after playing in a mud hole. When we first got here my son wouldn't even walk through a mud puddle with boots on...."

The Kuurnes all live together in the two-and-a-half-storey family home on 163 acres. The family also owns another 200 acres where son, Petter, raises cattle for Pemberton Meadows Beef plus they lease seven additional sites for farming. Everyone helps out everyone else with the various operations.

Now thrown into the mix is Camel's Back Harvest, a small strawberry operation Carrie and Remi have started on the Kuurne homestead with plants, advice and equipment from the McEwan strawberry operation down the road — something Allen and Tonette McEwan started with help from the Naylors, who also once ran a strawberry farm. In fact, some of the equipment Carrie and Remi use today once belonged to the Naylors.

And there's one more important community connection woven through the Kuurne legacy: The land Sarah McMillan operates Rootdown Organic Farm on is the same 20-acre site that Petter and Aino Kuurne originally farmed. It was passed down through the family until Sarah purchased it in 2009.

"It's nice to be using a property that's come from a multi-generational farming family and to put it back into food production that's 100 per cent organic," says Sarah.

"I appreciate it came from a couple who came over from Finland and didn't speak a word of English but they built up this farm and their son is now a really important farmer in the valley."