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Chemical thinningwas perfect that


first year, but he says itwas not as good this year. And, then on June 30, at 7 a.m.,with


no forecast, torrential rainswere followed by 20 seconds of hail and too many of those beautiful apples are pock- markedwith hail damage this year. He’s optimistic some of themarkswill


smooth out as the fruit ripens, but he’s also trying to be realistic and he knows there’s been damage, particularly to the Sunrise and the Ambrosias. “I’man optimist like Fred,whileDave


tends to be pessimistic. Iwear rose- coloured sunglasses,” he quips. Dave’s 13-acre parcel had already been


replanted to super spindle high density in Ambrosia,Gala and an acre ofGranny Smith, so he doesn’t anticipate replanting there for a fewyears. However, he is looking at grafting the grannies over to Ambrosia or Honeycrisp. When the Jells took overGartrell


Farms, they re-named itGartrell Heritage Farms, in honour of themore than 125 years the pioneerOkanagan family has farmed that land. Dave and PatGartrell still live in the


original home, built in 1887 onGartrell Road,with some updates over the years, while Fred lives on the other parcel. Then, last year, Jell says theywere so


dissatisfiedwith their returns fromthe Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative (now the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative) that they left and sold their fruit independently. They formed Sun-Oka Fruit Farm,


established awebsite, and he rented trucks to drive product to Alberta and other points for sale. “Wewere not satisfiedwith howthe


co-opwas being run. Fruit is pooled, so if you ship better quality fruit, you don’t get the benefit of your extra effort.” So this year, he decided to sell his fruit


to AppleHouse in Brewster, Washington, run byGebbers Farms, a family-owned private company, along with six other Summerland growers, so therewon’t be any Sun-Oka fruit sold. The growers are sharing the logistics


of transporting fruit to the small Washington State community. Jell says he has no problemswith the


fact that the packinghouse is south of the border. “There is no border as far as I’m concerned.” Likely, the fruitwill return to this


country to be sold, as a product of Canada, providing the companywith a toehold in this country’smarkets, he said. His hope is that hewill see improved


communications and good returns, and he says so far, he’s happywith his dealingswith theU.S. company. They have also sent their field service staff up to Summerland and some growers have gone down and toured their packing line. Jell looks forward to receiving the


benefit of growing good quality fruit, with better prices for the better quality fruit he plans to ship, because itwon’t be pooledwithmediocre and poor quality fruit for a lower overall price. Contrary to last year,when he sold his


own fruit, hewon’t have to do the marketing this year, and he’s quick to note that he’s glad to have themdo it. “Iwant to focus on growing fruit. If I


get a fair return and I can seemy family, I’ll be happier.” Jell is currently producing about 1,200


bins and newacreage is just coming on- stream.He figures his is amore-than- medium-sized operation in the Okanagan Valley. His AuroraGoldenGalaswill continue to bemarketed through the Born in B.C.


programcreated by the Plant Improvement Company, and says he is probably growing the biggest crop of that variety in the valley. “They’re a lot ofwork to growand I


spendmore time on them, yet I still don’t get the best price for them,” he comments. However, they are personally his


favourite apple,with great flavour and crisp texture and they have incredible keeping qualities, just in regular cold storage, he says. On the other hand, he notes that


Ambrosias are a treat to grow; very grower-friendly. The family remains amember of the


B.C. FruitGrowers Association, even though it no longer ships through the largest fruit packing co-operative in the valley. His advice for successful farming is


pretty simple: “Stop thinking like a farmer and think like a businessman; find outwhat consumerswant and provide it and you’ll be successful.”


From Ontario by covered wagon... G


artrell Heritage Farms of Summerland is one of the province’s pioneer orchards, with James Gartrell bringing young dormant fruit trees planted in old wooden barrels from Ontario by covered wagon in 1887.


While the family started off from Stratford, ON that year by rail, they switched


to horses and covered wagons near Spokane and began their search for a valley they’d heard had an arid climate and unsettled land, according to family research. In the absence of modern-day roads and bridges, local natives were called


upon when they reached the mighty Columbia River to help them cross by putting a canoe under each wheel of their wagons and paddling it over. Five- year-old Fred rode on the front of his mother’s saddle pony. They’d endured four months of winter before arriving in May at the Ellis


Ranch at what is now Penticton, and from there they moved up the west side of Okanagan Lake, homesteading 320 acres at Trout Creek. They were the first white settlers there. Once the transplanted fruit trees began to bear fruit, James Gartrell packed


them into wooden boxes, loaded up his wagon and hauled them to the Fairview mining camp near what is now Oliver, a three-day trip. By 1927, the region was producing 3.5 million boxes of apples a year, more


than are being produced today. Gartrell was so proud of the quality of his apples that he entered them in


agricultural fairs, including international ones in London, England, and they brought back awards, even then. That youngest son, Fred, grew up to take over the orchard, and was in turn


succeeded by his son Lloyd. In 1978, Lloyd’s son Dave began managing the farm, and he was joined a


few years later by his older brother, Fred. They worked their great-grandfather’s land together for nearly 30 years,


modernizing the orchard operation, producing more award-winning apples, and becoming involved in the industry they were so much a part of.


—JudieSteeves British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013 21


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