Fruit flies thanks to new program at Kelowna International Airport

Fruit to Flight allows travellers heading to other parts of Canada to buy fresh Okanagan fruit at the airport and take it on the plane.

Travellers heading to other parts of Canada can now take a taste of the Okanagan—fresh fruit—back with them on the plane thanks to a new program at YLW called Farm to Flight.

YLW now sells fruit to fly.

Kelowna International Airport (YLW) and its concessionaire, Skyway Group, have teamed with De Simone Farms Ltd., a local produce distributor and local growers, to provide travellers with fresh, quality fruit they can take on the airplane to anywhere in Canada.

The new program called Farm to Flight, offers various in-season fruits, available for passenger purchase in YLW’s departures lounge gift shop, past airport security screening.

According to airport director Sam Samaddar, the program took two years to develop and is the first of its kind in Canada.

One of the reasons it took so long to get off the ground was the myriad of provincial and federal regulations it had to meet to transport fruit across the country. The fruit for sale at the airport cannot be taken into the U.S.

“Our Farm to Flight program offers a unique opportunity to promote locally-grown, quality fruit across Canada,” said Samaddar, “Not only will Farm to Flight bring new opportunity and national reach for local farmers, but it will also bring awareness of Kelowna to communities across Canada.”

Specially packaged in containers that fit under airplane seats, Farm to Flight is described as a convenient way for domestic travellers to bring home a unique, Okanagan gift to share with friends and family.

Five-pound boxes of fruit—cherries, peaches, apples and pears as they come into season—cost $10 each and small, single-serving cups of cherries—complete with a small cup inside for the stems and pits—cost $3.50 each. Cherries are currently available in the single serving cups and in two-pound containers.

Pierre De Simone of De Simone Farms said Wednesday only premium fruit will be used for the program and the specially-designed packaging will help keep it in perfect condition during flight.

In addition to the packaging, a specially designed cooler was created to keep the fruit cool and fresh while on display at the airport.

The Farm to Flight program officially launched Wednesday but a “soft” opening took place eight days ago and the cherries that are currently being sold are flying off the shelves.

“We’re very pleased to launch the Farm to Flight program at YLW as it’ll benefit the whole community,” said Samaddar Wednesday. “Partnerships like this make good sense for YLW as we work to promote agriculture in the Okanagan.”

He said as long as they meet the criteria for supplying fruit for the program, any grower in the region can participate.They do so through De Simone Farms, which packs the fruit.

Samaddar said YLW is committed to ensuring  the role agriculture and agri-tourism plays in the Okanagan Valley is robustly represented and promoted at the airport.

And past-president of the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association said all its members support the program at the airport, seen as a gateway to the region.

For more information on the program, visit ylw.kelowna.ca.