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B.C. fruit grower awards: Better late than never


September 25, 2009
By James Careless

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The 2008 BC Fruit Growers Awards were due to be presented at last year’s Horticultural Forum. However, the November 8, 2008 event had to be cancelled when Highway 97 between Kelowna and Penticton had to be closed. The road was under construction when a metre-wide crack opened up in a cliff above the road near Summerland.

The 2008 BC Fruit Growers Awards were due to be presented at last year’s Horticultural Forum. However, the November 8, 2008 event had to be cancelled when Highway 97 between Kelowna and Penticton had to be closed. The road was under construction when a metre-wide crack opened up in a cliff above the road near Summerland.

As a result, the 2008 awards were given out during the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative fieldman’s seminar, held in Kelowna earlier this year. “The three awards recognize innovation outstanding performance in terms of fruit production,” says B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Joe Sardinha. “Our members submit nominations, then we send out judges to determine which ones should be chosen as the winners.”

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In 2008, all three winners came from the South Okanagan region. The Compact Orchard Award was given to Doug and Nora Crumback of Summerland. The Golden Apple Award went to Greg Sanderson and Joyce Barton of Cawston. And the Soft Fruit Award went to Joe and Terry Hart in Naramata.

           

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In
1995, Doug and Nora Crumback purchased a small orchard operated by
Doug’s dad in 1995. The family operation was awarded the 2008 Compact
Orchard Award earlier this year by the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association. (Submitted photos)
 
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The Crumback orchards are planted with Gala, Ambrosia, Aurora, Spartan and Granny Smith apples plus Lapin cherries.
 
p12_BC-Photo-03
 
An example of the fruit quality available from the Crumbacks’ orchard.


 

Crumback success a family affair
Doug Crumback was once a military air traffic controller. But in 1995, he put all that aside when he and his wife Nora moved their blended family of seven children to Summerland, B.C. Here, they purchased an orchard operated by Don and Shirley Crumback – Doug’s parents – and started their own farming business.

It is this business that won the 2008 Compact Orchard Award. “We cleared eight acres and planted 12,000 trees,” recalls Doug. “We managed to fit a lot into a small space, thanks to the advice of other growers and field staff. I must admit, our neighbours in Kelowna wondered how we did it.”

The Crumbacks completed their replanting in 2003 with 2.5 acres planted with Gala apples, 2.5 acres with Ambrosia and 1.2 acres with Aurora, Spartan and Granny Smith. In addition, Lapin cherries were grown in their nursery, and then planted to more than 1.3 acres in 1998.

“It has been a steep learning curve moving from military air traffic control to horticulture and beekeeping,” says Crumback. “But it has been a great journey that we’ve found really rewarding, and we love being included in B.C.’s tight community of growers.”

Our orchard wouldn’t have become successful without the help of our kids – Geoff, Stephanie, Jenna, Michelle, Jason, Veronica and Jonathan – and my parents,” he adds. “We would have never won this award without their hard work.”

A great year for Greg Sanderson Farms
2008 was near perfect for Greg Sanderson and Joyce Barton, winners of the Golden Apple Award. “Everything went right last year, when it came to the growing season,” Sanderson says. “We had a good bloom time and my spraying and thinning were right on schedule. The resulting crop was excellent in terms of quality and quantity.”

Sanderson’s farm has 33 acres in all with 20 of them devoted to orchards growing apples, pears, preaches, cherries, apricots and prunes. Ray also grows grapes for a local estate winery and sweet corn for fresh sales.

Winning the 2008 Golden Apple Award “was a great honour,” says Sanderson. “After I learned we won, I started reading over the stories of previous winners and their achievements. This got me to thinking; I may be a success after all.”

Kidding aside, Sanderson and Barton take fruit growing very seriously. This is why they are modifying their orchards to improve per-acre yield, while at the same time making the trees easier to care for. “We are moving towards super high density orchards, with the trees planted two feet apart in rows 10 feet apart,” Sanderson says. “This will let us boost our crop, while using efficient tower sprayers.”

In making these changes, Sanderson is using trees grown in his own nursery, and planted to begin producing in just three to four years. “With the market the way it is – both the cost of fruit and the amount of money our land is worth – I can’t be sitting around for 15 years, waiting for my new trees to produce,” he says.

Hart Orchards: 26 years and still going strong
Soft Fruit Award winners Joe and Terry Hart are pleased to have won the 2008 honour, but they are taking the victory pretty much in stride. “We’ve been at this for 26 years,” Joe Hart explains. “So being focused on producing quality cherries, apples and pears has long been important to us.” He credits their success to all the help they receive from their field staff and the fruit growing industry.

The Hart’s farm, Hart Orchards of Naramata, is about 18 acres in size. “I lease some of the land from my father-in-law, so I’m really not clear on how many acres I have to work with,” says Joe. “He’s a third generation fruit farmer, and has four daughters. Three of them are married to farmers, including me. We are growing cherries, pears and apples.”

Hart Orchards prides itself on running a neat, trim acreage, with a lot of attention being paid its trees. “I try to do a good job, grow good fruit and make a bit of money on the operation,” Hart says. This is why a section of their land has been set aside for organic farming. “Organic farming has its challenges, but at least you can spray for pests as long as you use organically-approved pesticides,” he notes. “The real difference is in the fertilizer, because you can’t use petroleum-based products.”

Looking ahead, Joe Hart that his kids will continue the family fruit farm, but isn’t sure it will happen. “Right now, they’re not that interested,” he says. “As well, there’s a lot of pressure on land prices, what with all the vineyards going in locally. I’m not sure what will happen down the road. In the meantime, we’ll stay focused on what we do best, which is growing great fruit.”

Looking ahead to 2009 awards
Barring any further problems with Highway 97, the 2009 B.C. Fruit Growers Association Awards will be presented at the 40th Annual Horticultural Forum. It will be held in Penticton on Friday, November 13, 2009. “Despite the date, we’re hoping for better luck this year,” quips Sardinha.


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