Over the years, I have associated the Okanagan Valley with sunshine, warm temperatures and fresh fruit, and in more recent years, award-winning vineyards and wineries. But I would never have associated the Okanagan with cattle ranching.
During our most recent trip to the Okanagan, we visited the O’keefe ranch. Located just outside of Vernon, the ranch was founded in 1867, by Cornelius O’keefe.
By 1900, the ranch had grown to 12,000 acres, raising cattle and sheep, while growing wheat. The ranch was self-contained, including a residence, church and a general store.
In addition to happy times, there was also some sadness, as loved ones passed away, sometimes in the prime of life.
Eventually, the decline of the beef market and the growing popularity of Okanagan fruit led O’keefe to sell most of his holdings. The ranch continued operating until 1967, when the family opened it to the public as a heritage site, run by the family.
In 1977, the ranch was sold to a non-profit foundation, which gave the ranch to the City of Vernon. Today, the ranch is operated by a non-profit society on behalf of the City and is open from May to October every year.
We quickly learned that two hours is not enough time to see all of the ranch. However, it was more than enough time to appreciate Cornelius Okeefe’s remarkable achievement.
Thanks for looking, everyone.