The tumultuous events of 2021 have brought the topic of food security to the forefront. From supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic to extreme weather and flooded highways, it’s good to know where food can be found locally.
Ben Yarschenko and his wife Claudia Herrara are proud to be the faces behind Treasure Life Flour Mills in Canyon, just east of Creston.
“Producers like us have created a self-sufficiency for our region,” said Yarschenko. “Just in our valley, we’ve got locally-produced flour, grains, asparagus, fruit, and vegetables. It’s good to know that what you’re eating came from just down the road.”
Originally from Argentina, the couple left their oilfield careers behind in 2008 to make the move to the Creston Valley.
The agricultural lifestyle was ingrained in Yarschenko from a young age, since he grew up on a cattle ranch in central Alberta.
He had relatives who produced potatoes, peaches, and strawberries near Creston from the 1930s. The valley’s desirable climate and growing season seemed ideal for a new venture.
The couple noticed there was limited market on heirloom grains, many of which have been uncultivated for over 100 years.
After much research and collecting from seed banks and retired farmers, Yarschenko amassed a collection of over 200 seed varieties, with 23 suited to be grown commercially including wheat, flax, rye, farro, and einkorn.
Starting in 2010, it was a gradual evolution over five years from growing grains to milling flour to selling their products in retail stores.
Now, Treasure Life operates eight flour mills on approximately 500 acres of hay fields. All of their products are certified organic, non-GMO, and free of preservatives and additives. They produce four to five tonnes of flour a week, which is shipped to stores and bakeries across B.C. and Alberta.
Yarschenko said heirloom grains are full of flavour and a great addition to a healthy, nutritious diet.
He has received much positive feedback about their flour products, especially from people with specific dietary needs who struggle to digest conventionally-grown, modified grains.
“The customer support makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
Challenges in agriculture
During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Treasure Life’s product orders more than tripled as store shelves were emptied of flour and yeast by panicked shoppers.
To keep up with demand, Yarschenko said they moved up to milling 18 hours a day, with the help of 14 employees. The rush lasted about a month and a half, during which up to 19 metric tonnes of flour was produced a week, before it began to level off again.
Despite the various challenges presented by the pandemic, Yarschenko said the most difficult thing to combat by far is climate change. The summer of 2021 brought extreme temperature highs and weeks of drought that impacted the crops of every farmer.
“It’s hard to adapt or know what to do when you don’t have any rain or water,” he said.
Where to buy
To support Treasure Life Flour Mills, find their products in Creston at Pealow’s Independent, Famous Fritz, Paul Superette, Vital Health, Faraman Farms, and Creston Fruit Stand. Alexis’ Artisan Breads at the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market also uses their flours in his baked goods.
Across the Kootenays, products are also supplied to Salmo Foods, Meadow Creek Store, Kootenay Co-op in Nelson, Nutters in Cranbrook, Fort Steele Resort, AG Valley Foods in Invermere, Le Bon Pain and Local Market in Fernie, Ferraro Foods in both Trail and Rossland, and at Jerseyland Organics in Grand Forks.
For more information, visit the Treasure Life Flour Mills Facebook page.