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The establishment of the Kelowna orcharding area : a study of accommodation to site and situation Reeves, Colin Malcolm

Abstract

The focus of this study is the emergence of a successful orcharding industry as the economic base of the Kelowna area in the Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia. The study seeks to examine the permissive factors which facilitated the developments that shaped the nature of the industry and the area. Such factors were the accommodation of fruit production to the local natural environment, and then accommodation to the wider market situation of which Kelowna was a part. Neither of these major adjustments was effectively made by the orchardists alone; government assistance in several forms played an important role. Initially the study focuses on adaptation to environment. The area was first made fit for orcharding by the installation of irrigation works to overcome problems of aridity. Subsequently there was an influx of largely inexperienced settlers into this unfamiliar environment. They made attempts to gain understanding of orcharding techniques and the hazards and constraints of the new environment, especially related to its soils and climate. Gradually, costly adjustments were made and fruit production was secured. This however highlighted marketing difficulties. Kelowna is situated relatively inaccessibly in the heart of the interior plateau. Its produce, mostly apples, was perishable and markets were both spatially and organizationally distant. To reap the benefits of more assured production it was necessary to reduce effectively that distance between producer and consumer by increasing grower control over fruit distribution and marketing. Most growers soon realised that a surrender of individualism to complete co-operation the only way to achieve this, but a certain disunity of thought and action among the orchardists resulted in an impasse that was only surmounted, with the aid of government legislation. In anticipation that a smoothly efficient orcharding industry would soon be organised to serve as the basis and support of life in the area, Kelowna soon developed the reputation of being a pleasant and attractive place to live. It was an anticipation long unfulfilled. Despite the area's natural advantages and. the resolution of the physical problems of fruit prediction, the nature of the product and the spatially dispersed and complex marketing system meant that orcharding was still economically uncertain without the organization of an efficient link between growers and market. Only when this was accomplished could the Kelowna area be described as a viable agricultural area with a sound economic base.

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