The Okanagan has long been synonymous with orchards, fruits and agriculture. Amongst the vast variety of fruits the valley produces, apples are one of the largest fruit industries and were integral to the early development of Kelowna. This Saturday, October 20th, the city will celebrate the Okanagan’s apple industry at the 24th annual Apple Fair at the B.C. Orchard Industry Museum.
The first apple orchard in the region was planted in the 1860’s at the mission of the Oblates of Mary the Immaculate. It isn’t known exactly where Father Pandosy acquired the first apple seedlings. Some say the seeds were sourced from St. Mary’s Mission soon after seedlings were brought to the Lower Mainland by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Another story claims that Father Pandosy planted the orchard from a cutting of an apple tree from John McIntosh’s famous orchard in Ontario.
The first agricultural attempts in Kelowna were focused on cattle and grains, but the success of the apple trees indicated to the early settlers that the Okanagan provided the right lands and climate for viable fruit orchards.
In her 1891 book on early life in the Okanagan, Lady Aberdeen noted the agricultural shift:
Up to now but little attention has been devoted to fruit growing, as this has been principally a stock raising country, but the possibilities shown by the few orchards already planted, point to its being found to possess exceptional advantages for the pursuit of this industry.
In 1901, the first straight car of apples was packed, loaded and shipped from the Okanagan Valley. It took two entire weeks just to assemble that first car of apples! The fruit industry boomed in the early 20th century, and the number of packinghouses in the North End of Kelowna increased to keep up with demand for Okanagan fruit domestically and internationally. By 1928, the Valley was exporting more than four million boxes of apples, compared to only a few hundred thousand in 1910.
These years also marked the success of Okanagan apples as champions on the international fruit show circuit. One of the earliest recognitions of the calibre of Okanagan apples came when Kelowna Farmer H.C. Mallam, won two first prize diplomas at the 1909 International Apple Show in Spokane, Washington.
Okanagan apples also won several awards overseas at the British Commonwealth’s Imperial Fruit Shows in the early 20th century. Established in 1920, the Imperial Fruit Show was a contest and exhibition produce from all over the British Empire. Hugely popular, the shows often drew crowds of up to 90,000 people and provided a venue to introduce the variety of foreign produce, cultivation and canning techniques to the British public.
Fresh fruit, canned fruit, and dried fruit were all judged and awarded based on quality, size and taste. Awards were also given to the best visual display of apples, which Vernon’s Little Family of the Associated Growers of British Columbia Ltd. won in 1920. Other Imperial Fruit Show contests were held based on individual skill, including an apple-packing contest, where contestants had to wrap a full box of 175 apples as quickly and carefully as possible. In 1937, Kelowna’s Isobelle Stillingfleet was awarded ‘Champion Apple Packer of the British Empire’ for packing an apple box in 2.5 minutes! With the success of Okanagan Apples at the Imperial Fruit Show and other International competitions, Okanagan produce became even more highly in demand and furthered the popularity and reputation of our region’s orchards worldwide.
Get Know Your Okanagan Apples
The annual Apple Fair offers a tasty way to learn more about more than 24 different varieties of apples, as well as family-friendly entertainment and craft and food vendors.
The 24th Annual Apple Fair presented by the Kelowna Museum Society takes place on Saturday, October 20, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the Laurel Packinghouse, 1304 Ellis Street. Admission is at the door $2 per person $5 per family.
Classic Okanagan Apple Recipe – Danish Apple Roll
Click here for recipe Spartan Apples were developed at the Summerland Research Station in 1936 and were the first new breed of apple produced from a formal scientific breeding program. Ingredients Filling Instructions: Serves 8.
Spartan Apples were developed at the Summerland Research Station in 1936 and were the first new breed of apple produced from a formal scientific breeding program.
Come out to the Kelowna Museums Apple Fair and learn, taste, and enjoy a fun-filled day full of activities for all ages!
Where: The Laurel Packinghouse (1304 Ellis Street, Kelowna)
When: Saturday, October 20th, 2012 – 10:00 AM—3:00 PM
(Article submitted by Victoria Miller-Braun)