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B.C. brand popular with consumers

Support for ‘buy local’ movement is helping to offset shortage of government help. By Judie Steeves


lthough orchardists have had their request for cash assistance to help deal with collapsing prices denied by both provincial and federal governments, there is an expectation of support for at least some portion of growers’ costs.

And, apple prices are inching up as the season draws to a close, instead of continuing to drop as they did last year.

Adrian Abbott, director of marketing and industry relations with B.C. Tree Fruits, says that although prices have been improving slowly , they are still similar, on average, to those of the past three years—within about a dollar a box. The good news is there’s solid support in Western Canada from the ‘buy local’ movement, which he says consumers have taken to their retailers.

“The B.C. Brand is local and a known source, with the image of the family farm rather than factory farming,” commented Abbott. He estimates about a third of Western Canadian consumers take that desire to buy local into consideration when purchasing tree fruits.

Others are swayed by a concern about food safety.

Such attitudes provide some leverage for the marketing company to push prices a little higher, noted

14 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2010 Abbott.

Meanwhile, growers have been doing their own promotion of ‘buy local’ and ‘support

your local farmer’ with such activities as sales of apples at farmers’ markets at the price orchardists have been receiving, instead of the price they usually see in stores.

In response, there’s been a good reaction from consumers to the campaign to raise awareness in a positive way, to the industry’s plight, says Fred Steele, a director on the board of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association.

It began with a sale at the Kelowna market that saw lineups snake across the market and growers rushing to the packinghouse for more fruit to sell, and continued a few weeks later in Abbotsford where they were also well-received.

Local charities were the immediate beneficiaries, but in the long-run, Steele is hopeful the local industry will be, with greater public awareness

and support for orchardists. Growers are also supporting the Facebook site set up by Nadene Casorso, which had drawn more than 3,100 people to sign up in support by mid-May. Just use any search engine and type in “I support Okanagan Valley tree fruit growers.” “The reaction was tremendous. Most came to discuss what they want and many contacted their local MLAs to say they support our industry,” said Steele.

They said they want to make sure that agricultural land is kept for agriculture and that the industry is sustainable. They also want to see stores supplying local fruit, he said. “We’re awakening the consumer to the fact they do have choices,” he added.

He’s confident it’s a movement that can only lead to better prices for growers and more local sales.

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