Orchardists stay informed with meetings

The Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative got together for an informal breakfast and discussion forum on Thursday morning at a Coldstream orchard.

The Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative got together for an informal breakfast and discussion forum on Thursday morning at a Coldstream orchard.

These monthly meetings are a way for the fruit-growing community and co-operative to keep up to date on issues facing the industry.

“We’re in sort of a transition right now,” said Jim Elliot, a grower in Oyama.

“The economy, the grower base, the Canadian dollar, the merging of co-ops  — everything is changing.”

Yet in the past 70 years since the co-operative has been in operation, many of the horticultural and economic problems remain the same. But these monthly meetings are about more than just discussing problems.

“It’s to keep the lines of communication open,” said Gary Schieck, CEO of Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative. “I suppose there is a social aspect as well.”

About 40 members of the co-operative showed up at 8 a.m. for a pancake and sausage breakfast hosted by Gayle Krahn, of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative field service.

Just like every other year the weather is always a topic of discussion, but contrary to popular belief the delayed beginning of summer is not neccessarily a cause for concern.

“We’re about a week behind last year,” said Schieck about the harvesting schedule, “and maybe two weeks behind last year with the soft fruit.”

This means that some fruit will be a week or two late hitting the shelves at the local grocery store or farmers market.

“For marketing purposes we’d like it to be as early as possible,” says Schieck about the harvest. But horticulturally speaking it may be better for some products.

“We have strong looking fruit this year,” said Malcolm Mitchell, a grower in Winfield, adding that the prices are starting off strong as well.

The general outlook amongst the attendees was fairly positive, discussing how the industry’s troubles have gotten better in some ways over the last several years.

“The support from the Canadian consumer has gotten stronger,” said Elliot. For the past five years he has noticed the trend moving towards buying local with fads like the 100-Mile Diet makeing an impact.

“It’s the consumers that are really driving that.”

The B.C. Tree Fruit label can be found in grocery stores, and the co-operative urges people to look for it.