British Columbia’s Lt-Gov. Janet Austin is in the South Okanagan this week to meet local businesses and community organizations and visit important sites.
On Monday, the lieutenant-governor toured the historic Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to be here. I’m having such a great time and the communities are all so incredibly welcoming,” Austin said.
“The volunteers have been fabulous. They made me some rhubarb cake, which was which was a real treat, and it’s nice to see how the community, locally, really supports a historic institution like this one.”
Grist Mill general manager, Chris Mathieson, along with volunteers, lead Austin throughout old buildings, gardens, and the summer kitchen on site.
“It’s always exciting to have somebody like the lieutenant-governor come and visit a place like this. We’re far from Victoria, so it often feels like we don’t get a lot of attention. So, to have her here means a lot,” Mathieson said.
“I understand that part of the reason that she’s visiting is just to get to know the South Okanagan and Similkameen and a big part of how we became what we are, are places like this.”
The heritage site is built around a working waterwheel-powered flour mill that is almost 150 years old and still produces flour.
“It’s really quite remarkable to actually have a functioning mill that’s operating and that’s actually grinding red fife grain, which is actually a very popular artisan grain for bread making now,” Austin said.
“But just to see the original structure of how it’s been restored … but the fact that it’s functioning I think that’s very rare in our country.”’
Meanwhile, the lieutenant-governor says tours like this provide an opportunity for her to connect directly with community members.
“It’s a wonderful experience for me to meet so many people who are contributing in different ways to our province, protecting the environment, our cultural heritage, It’s a real pleasure and I really do enjoy it,” Austin said.
“There have been some really tough times for a lot of people over the past few years, so I like to have the opportunity to just talk personally with people: What is their experience? What kind of support do they have? What do they need ? … And I’m of course very happy to do whatever I can to be helpful.”
This was Austin’s fourth stop of the tour, which began in Osoyoos and Oliver.
“We started by helping to open the BC Indigenous Golf Championship at the Desert Canyon Golf Course, which was wonderful. It was really a fabulous cultural celebration and also just honoring Indigenous athleticism so great to see that happening,” Austin said.
“I had a breakfast meeting with the Osoyoos Chamber of Commerce this morning,” she said Monday. “We visited the Sanderson Farm Market, and I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with Rajinder who is the owner there.”
Next, the lieutenant-governor will meet with community members and veterans at the Legion Hall Branch in Okanagan Falls, as well as tour Avery Family Farms to learn about vertical farming.
The tour will wrap up in Penticton at the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services community centre.