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Market Watch

Some growers are undermining the industry by not giving co-op efforts a fair shake.


here’s been lots of grumbling about the packinghouse and how it does business recently. It’s not surprising, because returns to growers have not been good. But, is that entirely the fault of the house, or is that the fault of circumstances beyond the control of those in the industry?

Or, is it the fault of the grower, who hasn’t adapted well to changed times? The times indeed have changed, as consumers are bombarded with choices at the produce section: from perfect oranges to intriguing-looking dragon fruit; from cute little kiwis to traditional bananas; from imperfect B.C. apples to cheap Washington State apples...

Then there’s rough-looking “orchard run” fruit, which is local and cheap, and which hasn’t gone through the packinghouse. Even growers are undermining the effectiveness of their own co- operative—by circumventing the system and confusing consumers, providing them with unsorted fruit that’s local and leaving them with a mixed impression.

“Should I take this fruit, even though some of it doesn’t look that great, and support my local farmer as I’m asked to do? At least it’s cheap, just like the imported fruit, even though the imported stuff looks better,” she thinks to herself as she puts some in a bag.

So, the local supplier, the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative, gets a black eye for offering poor- looking fruit to loyal, local customers, and it doesn’t even get a return from the stuff, because in fact, it never entered the doors of its packinghouse.

The only one who might win in such a scenario is the grower who managed to sell that fruit to the retailer.


By Judie Steeves Are you really doing the best you can?

But wait, that grower is also a member of the packinghouse co-op, so in the long run, he actually loses too, doesn’t he? Down the road, the co-op can’t survive if its members don’t pull together, all use the facilities and make the operation work.

It’s made up of some 800 grower families from throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, all of whom take turns at the helm, doing their best to keep the ship

afloat and on a route to prosperity. However, times in global

marketplaces have been difficult

recently, and the industry has gone

Down the road, the co-op can’t survive if itsmembers don’t pull together.

through a reduction in size, at the same time as it’s going through a re- structuring, so those growers at the helm have had to pilot the ship through some of the stormiest waters this industry has ever seen. Have you offered to help? Have you

helped by supporting the co- operative in every way you can? Or, have you been one of those members who takes advantage of the opportunities offered, but shuns your responsibility to be there to follow through at harvest-time or when important meetings are held to make vital decisions?

If you have an issue with some decision made by the co-op, do you contact one of those people you elected to represent you on the board, or do you grumble to your neighbours or try and subvert the system?

If you have a beef about the returns you’ve been getting, do you contact someone at the packinghouse to ask some civil questions or do you just try to tear the whole operation apart from the outside?

Instead, why don’t you try to fully understand what you’re unhappy with and if you feel you could help to make changes that would be of benefit to all members, be prepared to put yourself in a position to do that? Run for office.

And, in the meantime, don’t be complacent. Get out there and grow the best fruit you can, because that’s the only way you’ll make any money in these difficult times.


Wild Goose Vineyards, Okanagan Falls, BC

Stag’s Hollow Winery, Okanagan Falls, BC

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1-800-979-2993 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2011 FAX: 250-717-5751

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