Vernon Club summer meeting in an orchard


The August 22, 2012 meeting was called to order in an orchard in Coldstream near Vernon, B.C.  Our host and member Peter Tassie talked about growing up there in the 1930’s and 40’s, operating an orchard then and comparing it with present day management.  

Their home was built as a foreman’s residence about 1912 and then added onto in the next decade as the former owners, at one time in Vancouver, moved onto the property. The property was acquired by Peter’s family in 1930 and was then about 40 acres. On it was a barn built about 1912, well constructed and still in very good condition. It is now on an adjacent property, but the new owner has restored it to very much its original condition.

Orcharding in the old days was quite different from what it is today. 

In those days the trees were free standing seedlings, planted from 30 to 35 feet apart, and growing high enough that they required 12 or 14 foot ladders to reach the tops for picking as well as pruning and thinning. There were a number of apple varieties including Red and Golden Delicious, Wealthy, Jonathan, Duchess and Transparent, but in the North Okanagan the McIntosh was king, and the largest McIntosh orchard in Canada was in Coldstream. Although the McIntosh is making a comeback, most other varieties have reduced popularity thanks to the newer ones, some of which have been developed at the Canada Research Station in Summerland.

Peter mentioned that when he was growing up apples were picked into wooden boxes, weighing about 35 pounds, and handled almost entirely by hand. With the introduction of tractors, and improvements that included hydraulic systems, the three point hitch and power take off, it was inevitable that a more efficient means of handling would be developed and apple boxes were replaced by larger apple bins, holding about 22 boxes. Other advances include herbicides and pesticides, spraying machines, and drip irrigation- a much more efficient way of irrigating trees. Perhaps the biggest change is in the varieties and type of trees, now planted in rows about eight feet apart, with the trees spaced 12 to 18 inches apart, requiring a support system of posts and wires to held them up. Orcharding has indeed changed and benefited from advances in science and technology.  

Gayle Krahn took over from Peter and explained her work at the orchard which she now leases from Peter. She is a horticulturist and is the field person in the North Okanagan for Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative. She explained the operation throughout the season, and noted that even though orchards are small, extensive management skills are required. Coming from Saskatchewan she recalled that management of 1000 acres of a grain farm might be roughly compared with one acre of orchard!   

Food safety is a big issue in B.C. as the federal government has established food safety standards. A continuing condition is the increased competition from abroad, especially the United States, where production and acreage are much greater than in British Columbia. Nevertheless the tree fruit industry has been in the Okanagan for well over a hundred years, and has survived by being progressive and innovative, carving out a niche applicable to our special conditions.

PAG Carol Schroeder thanked Peter and Libby for their hospitality and Gayle for her informative talk


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