VERNON - Farmer Val is taking off her straw hat.
After a 27-year run offering farm tours to thousands of kids at her Coldstream farm, Val Buchanan, affectionately known by her nickname ‘Farmer Val’ is moving on to other things.
“In a perfect world, I would have liked to have had a big open house and formally invited the whole community to come,” she says.
The decision to close the farm happened quickly and was mainly due to family reasons, including the passing of her father. She and her husband now plan to put their property up for sale and move to Alberta to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
The popular farm tours started by chance almost 30 years ago when Buchanan was working part time at her daughters’ preschool. They were looking for a farm to visit, and Buchanan offered her family’s. After that, the rest is history, Buchanan says. Soon, school groups and families up and down the valley were lining up to visit the farm.
“I don’t actually remember how ‘Farmer Val’ came about. I think it was the preschool, they’d say ‘let’s go out to Farmer Val’s.’ Now I can go into a grocery store and little kids will say, ‘there’s Farmer Val,’” she says. “Probably every kid in Vernon and area has come to the farm. Now it’s been generations.”
Like something out of Noah’s Ark, Buchanan kept two of every species — including donkeys, miniature horses, goats and lamas — so they’d have company. She was also the go-to for many community members who found injured or orphaned animals.
“They’d bring them to Farmer Val,” she says.
The farm tours — which started out free and eventually cost $5 per child — involved interacting with animals in a hands-on way, something Buchanan believes is an important experience for kids.
“I tried to teach kids the importance of nature, and all of the things around us, and that one day it would all be theirs,” she says.
But Farmer Val didn’t do it alone; she got a lot of support from her husband and parents, who lived next door in the 110-year-old farmhouse she grew up in.
“We called my dad and husband the ‘animal containment specialists’ — that was their nickname, and my mom we called the constant gardener,” she says.
Now, most of the animals have been rehomed and a for sale sign will go up at the house in the coming weeks. But, Farmer Val has lots of memories she’ll be taking with her.
“We really enjoyed sharing the farm with all of the community,” Buchanan says.
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