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Not all orchard faces are wrinkled Up Front

By Bryden Winsby W

e've all heard that the average tree fruit grower in this province these days is

pushing age 60. They're part of a trend that has been around for some time, a trend that might still be evident when results of this May's national census are released.

The last Canadian census, in 2006, showed that more and more British Columbians were fleeing farms. It indicated that the province's farm population had dropped to 1.5 percent of the total population, compared with 14.7 percent in 1931, even though the total farm area in the province had doubled to seven million acres during the same time frame. Farmers aged 65 and over made up 13.5 percent of the farm population in B.C., but there was an upside to that figure. It had risen significantly from 5.4 percent in 1971. However, the average age of farm operators also increased between 2001 and 2006, to 53.6 years of age from 49.9.

Nationwide, the profile of farmers is different than that of the general working population. No surprise. Information from the '06 census tells us that farm operators had a higher median age than the comparable labour force population of self- employed workers — 52 and 44 respectively. Also, the group of farmers under 35 years old poised to move the industry into the future was a smaller one, representing only nine per cent of all farmers. Nearly 20 per cent of the self-employed workers in the general labour force were under 35. Among all workers in the general labour force, 40 per cent were less than 35 years old. All these numbers aside, the future of farming is—or very soon will be—in the hands of those “youngsters.” By definition, average means that not every orchardist is a grizzled, creaky oldster. There are people out there who have the energy, knowledge, skills and years ahead of them to take a damn good stab at making success of a business that right now is fraught with challenges. With that in mind, contributing editor Susan McIver set


out to interview several of them and provide some insights for this issue into the attitudes and approaches being taken in the ranks of younger growers. Susan also has done a piece on the success being found by growers

who are producing quality apple juice as a specialty, not just something extra, as part of their operation.

Meanwhile, associate editor Judie Steeves tackles several other topics that have a positive spin, or could have. First, well-known Summerland grower Gord Shandler is determined to help his colleagues who are growing the relatively new Ambrosia apple variety get the most from their efforts. His mentoring project is being done under the auspices of what was formerly the New Variety Development Council and is now simply the Ambrosia Council. Elsewhere, Judie describes some very interesting proposals for the historic Fintry farm, and profiles a nursery operation—Byland’s—that has been known throughout the region for decades and has now diversified far

beyond what would have been envisioned by its family founders. We’ve also got an interview with the province’s newest agriculture minister, Don McRae, and an update on what’s been happening with the fledgling B.C. Wine Authority. Still on the wine and grape side of things, there is detail on the new network of promotional ‘trails’ in the Central Okanagan, and on th new Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. Gary Strachan gets into the harsh realities that newbies should consider if they dream of starting a winery. He also offers some advice on the care of stainless steel tanks, which are not as impervious to corrosion and other problems as you might think. Back with apples, Peter Waterman provides plenty to think about on the subject of apple sunscald, and our weed expert, Lisa Hughes, tells you everything you ought to know about a lovely looking but very obnoxious species called knotweed. Work hard, but have a great summer!

Everything you need, carried in stock: - Stock corrugated produce boxes - Handi-paks - Customizable boxes and labels

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2011

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