B.C.’s newest agriculture minister, Don McRae, visited the Central Okanagan this week, touring the Byland’s Nursery operation in West Kelowna and meeting with groups of tree fruit growers and the chairman of the Agricultural Land Commission, Richard Bullock.
McRae, who is the sixth agriculture minister in this province in the past three years, says he was surprised by his appointment to the post, but he hopes it will be a longer posting than it was for some of his predecessors.
Despite a lack of experience in commercial agriculture, McRae says he grew up in what was then the rural Comox Valley on Vancouver Island with buddies who lived on farms, and was a council member when they promoted the valley’s agricultural roots for the economic development of the region.
While here, McRae visited Kelowna’s new small-batch micro-distillery, Urban Distilleries, which produces Spirit Bear Vodka and Gin, as well as meeting with the new Ambrosia Council and members of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association.
He was impressed with the Byland’s Nursery and Garden Centre operations where the family employs 70 people full-time and 200 during peak season.
The Bylands are one of the largest sources of fruit trees in the country for the orchard industry.
McRae says he envisions taking his young family on an agri-holiday this summer, beginning in Central B.C. and working their way through this part of the province, visiting ranches, orchards and vineyards while camping along the way.
He recalls coming to the Okanagan as a kid for the cherry season and enjoying the first of the other soft fruits as well.
He has good memories of the small town atmosphere of driving through the valley, as well as of the fresh, tree-ripened fruit and warm weather of summer.
“It’s stereotypical B.C.,” he commented.