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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Can the conversion to organic apple production improve economic and ecological viability in the Okanagan? a case study King, Richard R.


The viability of commercial apple production in the central Okanagan is threatened by high input costs, high land cost, restrictions on operations due to perceived and real environmental damage, and a historically oversupplied free market for apples. This paper documents the conversion of a Kelowna apple orchard to certified organic status in 2006 to 2008 and analyzes the potential of the conversion to counter some of the threats to viability of the farm. Economic factors compared for conventional and organic farm systems are input costs, market returns (historical and projected) and changes occurring in market access for organic produce. Environmental factors discussed are differences in pest control methods, orchard nutrition, water use, and the potential environmental impact of organic philosophy on Okanagan apple production. Organic food production and marketing in Canada is regulated by the federal government. The importance of regulation and identification of organic foods is discussed and evaluated.Study results show that conversion of a conventional apple orchard to organic production has significant potential for improving economic viability for an Okanagan apple orchard but does not conclusively demonstrate environmental improvement. Government and infrastructure support systems for organic production and marketing are limited in capacity to promote significant growth in Canada’s organic production. A threat to the observed improvement in Orchard viability by converting to organic production is the fact that the organic market is small. If a large number of producers in the Okanagan and Washington state were to convert to organic production, premiums for organic apples would likely shrink and the improved viability noted in the study might disappear. Several recommendations are made for further research and an outline of necessary steps for those planning conversion of an Okanagan apple orchard to organic production is included.

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