One of the North Thompson Valley’s oldest agricultural operations, Rainer Farm in Darfield, is finding a new role in the days of COVID-19.
“People are stocking up and they want to stay out of the grocery stores so March has been surprisingly busy,” said Ben Rainer. “Usually this time of year is pretty quiet.”
Although it sells some meat it has grown, the farm specializes in custom-cutting beef, pigs, turkeys and so on that its customers provide.
Since the COVID-19 situation began Rainer Custom Cutting has been asking its customers to phone or email ahead before dropping off or picking up. That way orders can be completed without customers going inside the facility.
“Sometimes that means standing outside but we want to protect our staff and we want to protect our customers,” Ben said. “It takes a lot of the risk-off.”
Rainer felt it is important that the people of the Valley retain local sources of supply for food in the current situation. How that can be done is a problem they are still working on.
“We want to keep the supply moving but there is no protocol for any of this stuff,” he said.
Dealing with challenges is nothing new for the Rainer family.
Ben’s grandfather, Karl Rainer (senior) was born in Austria in 1905 and purchased the main farm of 160 acres in 1932.
In 1936 he married Ingeborg Salle. Her parents had missed boarding the Titanic as their luggage had not arrived in the port.
The couple built up a small dairy herd and started shipping cream in 1937. They had three children: Anita, Linda and Karl Jr. Anita now lives in Clearwater while Linda lives in Kamloops.
Karl Jr. took over the farm with his mother when his father died in 1976 – he graduated from high school the same year.
They shipped cream from a herd of 12 cows to Noca Dairy in Vernon. They also had a few beef cattle, an old milking shed with a small red building on the end where the milk was separated. The cream was shipped and the skim milk fed to pigs.
In 1980, Karl Jr. married Debbie Splay. Their first child, Ben, was born in 1981. Dustin was born in 1984 and Kurtis in 1985.
Also during the early 1980s, the family stopped shipping cream and started shipping milk.
Ingeborg Rainer passed away in 2002 from a heart attack.
In 2013 they stopped dairy farming and started specializing more on a slaughter and processing plant that had been built a few years before.
Ben married Angie Fortier in 2007. Her father, Fred Fortier, is a leading member of Simpcw First Nation and well known in the North Thompson Valley. The couple has three children: Joy born in 2008, Ty born in 2011, and Jason born in 2014.
Dustin helps run the day-to-day operations of the farm along with Karl. He raises chicken, lamb and beef and laying hens. He is going into the food truck business in the near future. He and his daughter Emily, born in 2007, live on the farm along with his wife Lena Wienecke of Germany. They were married in 2017.
Kurtis also lives on the farm but makes his living elsewhere – although he does help out when not working away.
Today, the farm has over 40 head of beef cows that calve early each spring. In the summer they range on Crown land behind the main property. In fall the calves are sold. Pigs are raised as well and are processed in the plant on the farm.
As it has for nearly 90 years, days on the farm starts before the sun rises and have always been busy, milking cows as needed, feeding livestock, moving sprinklers, haying, fencing, repairing machinery, mucking out stalls, gardening, and a seemingly endless supply of duties that keep the farm functioning.