Paperwork precision is essential

Especially when you order a quarter to a half-million rootstocks a year from nurseries around the world.

By Judie Steeves W

e’ve come a long way in transforming the orchard industry, not only in the shape of the tree and the orchard, but

also in the varieties grown and the techniques used to grow them — and not only in apples but cherries as well.


James Calissi has played a significant role in major changes that have occurred in this province's orchard industry.

are all gone.

In the thick of these changes, Okanagan growers might have come across James Calissi, who is currently importing rootstocks and growing fruit trees and wine grape vines on his 13-acre East Kelowna orchard, where his grandparents grew apples and cherries as well.

He didn’t just step into the family business, however, but first went to UBC for a bachelor’s degree in plant science, then a master’s in agricultural economics. Today, instead of braving the weather and tending to the orchard, he spends a lot of time filling out pages and pages of applications and forms—from applying for permits from the federal government to import rootstocks, to ensuring the nursery he’s dealing with is certified as a virus- inspected facility, and that the necessary inspections have been done; and that fumigation certificates are included— down to the bill of lading needed for transport. “There can be no mistakes, no matter how minor or unintentional, or I have to start all over. It’s a lot of paperwork,” he concedes. And, if there’s even the appearance that he has lied or tried to cheat anywhere in the process, it’s all over. He’d lose all his permits and be finished.

Calissi orders a quarter to a half-million rootstocks a year from nurseries around the world, but mostly the United States, for his 100 or so B.C. customers, so the accompanying paperwork can be daunting. He remembers when he was a fieldman for B.C. Fruit Packers in the 1980s, no one was growing cherries except his neighbour, Hugh Dendy.

“There was too much risk, and even the markets were unstable,” he recalls. If you had too many for the market they went to the canneries. Today, though, the canneries


In those days everyone tore out their cherries and planted apples or grapes.

In recent years, however, there’s been a resurgence in interest in growing cherries, with a season lengthened by later-season varieties developed at the Summerland Research and Development Centre and changes in consumer interest in cherries.

One year, he remembers, Dendy’s Lamberts and Vans were all split due to rainstorms just as they ripened. “It was depressing to look at.”

But instead of giving up, he and Calissi headed down to Summerland to see what researchers had in the pipe for the future of the cherry industry.

He ended up planting Lapins, a later variety that often escaped the June rains that are common in the Okanagan, so were less likely to be subject to splitting. Up to then, all cherries ripened at the same time, within a few weeks of each other, and no one had considered expanding the season. “We just figured once the market was full of fruit, people would be fed up with cherries,” comments Calissi.

Dendy, however, set up a conveyor belt and packed his own later-season cherries, since the packinghouse was finished with them by the time his new varieties were being harvested. He found someone who agreed to market them, but they wanted larger fruit in the markets he’d found. At the time, many cherries were about 13-row, a size that wouldn’t even be accepted in a packinghouse now. A 10 1/2-row cherry was considered large at the time, but today that would go into the domestic market and 11 1/2 and under is considered a cull. Larger sizes, 10-row and up, are

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2018

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