Living a farmsteader’s dream come true in Burton, B.C.
The owners of Burton City Cider produce Kootenay-made cider, honey and other quality products
Barbara and Alan Ross are entrepreneurs with ethics, and they fell in love with the Arrow Lakes area. Following their hearts, the couple took ownership of an old farmstead in Burton, B.C.—a location steeped in agricultural history. In the process of establishing new gardens and orchards, they discovered that the West Kootenay region is prime for growing apples. They soon delved into cider-making for family and friends, and the quality of their product inspired them to take it one step further. The result was a booming business called Burton City Cider, which officially opened in 2016.
“We had a cottage here in the valley and every summer came out and loved being here,” said Barbara. “We started making cider, and then thought we could add something to this valley by starting a business.”
For the Rosses, living off the land is proving to be a profitable and satisfying venture. - Photo courtesy Barbara Ross
Prior to this endeavour, Alan was a corporate lawyer and Barbara worked in real estate. Barbara is also president of the Nakusp and Area Chamber of Commerce, and she sits on the Arrow Slocan Tourism Association (ASTA) board and the BC Hospitality Foundation Industry Advisory Council.
As one can imagine, there was a great deal of new information to take in when they first started.
“Lots of learning. How people did this without YouTube and the internet, I don’t know,” Barbara said.
Bring in the bees
In order to improve pollination of the apple trees, Barbara and Alan decided to get a few six-legged staff members on board. Now they have spectacular apples and honey products to show for it.
“We started beekeeping so we would have pollinators for the apple trees we planted,” said Barbara. “We have really been challenged by beekeeping as there are many problems that can and do occur—but we generally have two beehives going at any time and the girls pollinate and provide honey for sale in the Tasting Room. We keep the beehives in a bee house in the centre of the orchard because bears are a real problem in our area.”
Burton City Cider is located in the pristine Arrow Lakes area. - Photo courtesy Barbara Ross
The farmstead is always evolving, and there are expansions taking place as we speak. Barbara and Alan consistently strive to make their business operation easier on the environment.
“We are always dreaming about different ideas but are limited by our time available to work on them,” explained Barbara. “We are currently expanding our farm garden and maybe we will add glamping at the cidery. Something we are very interested in is being more environmentally sustainable. We have a large solar panel that is now generating about a quarter of our energy and we are focused on improving that. I usually ride to work on my e-bike, and we hopefully will be getting an e-vehicle for cider delivery in the future.”
The cidery menu includes several dry cider flavours, such as currant, raspberry and ginger apple. They even make a product called Apple’n’Rye, made by aging apple cider in oak barrels once used to store Alberta rye whiskey.
There is more to this farm than cider and honey, however.
“We also have fruit and vegetables that we grow for our deli and for farm sales along with lamb that we raise,” Barbara said. “Alan mills the wood that we use for picnic tables, benches, etcetera, so we are learning the whole living-off-the-land experience.”
Burton City Cider also serves pizza on Thursday nights (gluten-free options are available).