Farming: A Pemberton Tradition
Photo Courtesy of the Pemberton Museum
Farming has been a mainstay of the Pemberton Valley since Europeans first settled here more than 100 years ago. Today, the fertile valley, located just 30 minutes north of Whistler, is known for its seed potatoes, for which it is a major supplier to British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California.
Yet, farming and outdoor recreation are relatively new to the Valley’s history. Before European settlers came to the area, Indigenous peoples from the Interior Salish tribe were the first to call this area their home. The band settled at the foot of majestic Mt Currie and the head of Lillooet Lake where the village of Mount Currie exists today.
In the early 1880s, the area saw a large number of Europeans settle on the rich farmlands instead of continuing on to the northern gold rush. Pemberton was named after Joseph Despard Pemberton, a surveyor-General for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1850s.
First settled via the waterway (at Lillooet Lake), Pemberton entered the age of the railway in 1914, when the first passenger train rolled through bringing with it more families to settle in the valley.
As the gold rush dwindled, those that remained tapped the rich farmlands to establish the Pemberton Valley as a growing area for world famous seed potatoes. In 1967, the Pemberton Valley became the first commercial seed potato area in the world to grow virus-free seed potatoes. The Valley’s natural isolation created by the surrounding mountains, plus careful crop monitoring, helps to ensure the continuing success of this industry.
Some farmers today are choosing to diversify by growing a variety of vegetables and berries which are sold locally and to customers in Whistler. To find out more about the history of the Pemberton area, visitors can wander through the Pemberton Museum on Prospect Street.
The largest historical house on the site is two stories, built of hand-hewn timber in the 1880s. Surrounded by a covered porch, the house is furnished with antiques recreating life in the early 1900s.
Of the two smaller historic homes on the site, one is furnished in the style of a one-room schoolhouse while the other is used to display a variety of items, including a collection of native Indian hand-woven baskets and early dentistry equipment.
Available at the Pemberton Museum is The History of a Settlement, a locally produced book which follows the history of the Pemberton area from before Europeans first settled here.
The museum, operated by the Pemberton Museum and Archives Society, is open May to October.