since experienced. The practice was discontinued in 1909,” Andrew wrote. The Gartrell


contribution to fruit farming in the Okanagan was closely linked to that of J.M. Robinson, a


James Gartrell, far right, in his orchard at harvest time in about 1910. Standing next to him is R.H. Agur.

With an annual precipitation of only 10.4 inches, it quickly became obvious to James and fellow pioneer Duncan Woods that fruit trees and other crops needed more water.

“My great-grandfather and Duncan Woods got the first water license in 1888, if I remember correctly,” said David Gartrell, who lives with his wife Pat in the home built by James and Mary in 1896. James and Woods built a crude irrigation system starting with a rough dam of logs and boulders on the part of Trout Creek where it emerges from the canyon.

“I remember my grandfather Frederick saying they dug trenches and furrows with hoes to get the water to the trees. And that moles would pop up,” David said.

“Gartrell was the first to irrigate a fruit orchard in this valley. The Coldstream orchards were not set out until 1892.” Andrew wrote.

As larger crops were being produced in the 1890s and early 1900s, Frederick hauled fruit to Camp McKinney, Fairview and Greenwood in wagons pulled by a team of six horses.

“I had to do a lot of peddling in order to pay expenses and bring home $25 to $30 each trip,” he wrote.

As the number of orchards increased in the Summerland district and there was no packing house to service their needs, the firm of Stirling and Pitcairn Ltd. of Kelowna sent men to make an offer for the crop on the trees.

“When a deal had been made, they picked the crop, packed and shipped it and the growers, including Gartrell, had none of headaches that growers have

16 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2017

former Manitoba legislator and newspaper editor, who visited the South Okanagan in 1898.

Recognizing the potential of the young orchards he

saw, Robinson contacted Thomas Shaughnessy, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In 1903, the Summerland Development Company was formed with Shaughnessy as president, three other directors and Robinson as the managing director to promote the new fruit farming community.

The company helped to establish the road, water and electrical systems, the first in the valley, which facilitated the rapid growth of the fruit industry.

“By 1927, the region was producing 3.5 million boxes of apples a year, more than are being produced today,” Devin Jell, who is married to a member of the fifth generation, Janine Gartrell Jell, wrote on his website.

Today, there are 800 growers operating orchards in the B.C. interior that generate $130 million in wholesale revenue and contribute $900 million in economic activity.

Mary died in April, 1930 in Summerland and James three months SUSAN MCIVER

Devin Jell holds a basket of his Aurora Golden Gala, which won first place at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto in 2011. Jell is married to Janine, a fifth- generation member of the Gartrell family.


The farm was passed to Frederick and then to his son, Lloyd in 1946. Following completion of a degree in agriculture and working for the forest service, Lloyd’s son David took over the farm in 1978.

His brother, Fred Gartrell, who had been with the Bank of Nova Scotia, joined David in 1981.

In 1995, David and Pat were presented with the Century Farm and Ranch Award for the continuous operation of Gartrell Farms Ltd. for one hundred years. Jell now farms the 26-acres owned by David and Fred.

Over the years, the two brothers and Jell have won numerous awards from the B.C. Fruit Growers Association and the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair in Toronto.

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