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Van Roechoudt sees communication as vital for improving grower cooperation

By Judie Steeves B well.

It’s all part of the need for both the organization and the orchardists themselves to operate in a more-businesslike way, she says.

It is vital that the grower lobby organization achieves better communication with members, and that it reports on a more regular basis about what it’s doing for members and where their dues are going, she says. If members could all be reached by e-mail, that task would be far more efficient.

Van Roechoudt’s roots are deep in the tree fruit industry. Her grandfather had a master’s degree in horticulture in Belgium and he also earned one at UBC after he immigrated to Canada.

He came to the Okanagan because of the orchard industry here, and he ran an orchard in Belgium before he moved here.

Her father Marc was born in Geneva, Switzerland, but came here when he was about 14, completing school in Rutland.

The 50-acre farm in Lake Country is run by Van Roechoudt and her father, with an orchard manager who looks after the horticultural side of things and oversees the day-to-day operations.

She acts as the office manager: doing the bookkeeping, payroll, records, ordering, purchasing, hiring and communication, but she also sprays and fills in when anyone is sick.

Her father works in the orchard in the summer, operating the tractor, handling irrigation and spraying and making the big decisions, in consultation with her. When she graduated from high school here, she went on to UBC, with no intention of going into the orchard business.

However, she loves the Okanagan and fruit and wanted 10 JUDIE STEEVES Madeleine Van Roechoudt

to live on the farm. At university, she took global resource systems and environmental design, with the idea of going into landscape architecture. She says she’s always had a love of plants.

She graduated in 2004 with a bachelor of science degree, and in 2006, she returned to the farm to work full time. Her older sister lives in San Francisco and has no interest in the farm.

The family diversified in 2008, planting five acres in riesling wine grapes for nearby Gray Monk Estate Winery, and there are plans to remove four more acres from Gala apples and plant Pinot Auxerrois wine grapes. Currently, there are 20 acres in Galas, 20 in Ambrosias and five in the early Sunrise apples.

“There’s a slow turnaround in the orchard industry. It takes four or five years to make a change. In other industries you can change lines or designs right away, so you can keep up to consumer demand,” she notes. So, they try to replant continually, to renew the orchard and keep it viable.

“I believe I can make money growing something here. It’s a great site, with good soil and climate...” she comments.

But, it requires considerable investment right now to keep doing “just okay’ by re-planting, she says.

INDUSTRY TIME When former BCFGA board member Roger Bailey British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2011

eing the youngest as well as one of the newest members of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association executive, Madeleine Van Roechoudt believes growers must become digitally literate as part of the business of growing fruit.

So much more is possible if a grower is able to use the Internet and communicate efficiently with fellow growers via e-mail, she says.

For instance, if all growers could be reached by e-mail, the executive could do quick surveys to find out whether particular workshops would be useful for growers; or to quickly notify growers of upcoming events or changes in regulations.

Much research can be conducted using the Internet as

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