Okanagan book looks at 100 years of fruit farming

Think fruit farming has been easy and profitable for a century in the Valley? Think again

Compiling a book on fruit farming in the Okanagan was quite the eye opener for Kelowna native Don McNair.

The editor/publisher of Apple Farming – a century of fruit farming in the Okanagan confesses he had no notion of what it took to get the industry started.

“I knew nothing about the fruit farming industry,” said McNair. “Fruit farming did not coming naturally to the Okanagan. It had to be made to work.”

As it says on the back of the book, “the watershed was transformed with dams, pipes and flumes. Forests were felled. Wetlands were drained.

“The biggest challenge of all was economic: finding enough consumers to buy the fruit (especially apples) for a reasonable price…”

The book blends highly-readable text with a wide range of imagery to help show how the dry Okanagan Valley was transfigured into an agricultural heartland. Images are courtesy of museums throughout the Okanagan and Nicola region.

McNair hopes the book will be introduced into the school curriculum as a comprehensive bibliography provides online sources for project work in elementary and middle school-junior secondary classrooms.

He also hopes people who are or were active in fruit farming takes a look at the book.

“We have many reminiscences of fruit farming,” he said. “But this book will prod people’s memories in a different way: how did we solve the water problem? The labour problem? The marketing problem? And, of course, how good a living did we make from fruit farming? My impression is that it was pretty tight, except in the 1940s. People stuck with it for some other reason.”

Support for the project came from the Kiwanis Club of Kelowna and Oyama’s Prairie Folk Farmery, and McNair, who did the text and layout for the book, acknowledged it could not have been made without A Fruitful Century, the history of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association that David Dendy completed in 1989.

He really nailed the major developments and sources (and without the Internet to assist him),” said McNair. “The book is just longer and more complex than many members of the general public can handle.”

Apple Valley – a century of fruit farming in the Okanagan is available for purchase at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, and the Lake Country Museum.


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