Okanagan farm turns fruit into drink production

When residents support Farming Karma, they support local orchardists

Karma and Kuku Gill have been farming in the Okanagan for the last 25 years, but their children weren’t as keen to continue the family business, as is. They wanted to innovate, expand, help their parents build on years of hard work.

Avi, his wife Binny and his younger brother Sumeet decided to use the fruits their parents already cultivated to make something new — fruit soda.

Binny said the reason for the new venture was to help stabilize the family’s income after they saw the financial uncertainties farmers faced.

“Some years are great and others, not so much. But we wanted to do this because then we can grow our own fruit, we turn it into a product which we then can have some control over what the retailer is marking it up for,” she said.

READ: Okanagan cherries in jeopardy due to above-average rainfall

Avi said they started with apple soda, first selling it at the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market. Eight months later, their apple soda can now be found in 400 grocery stores across the province, including Safeway, Buy-Low, Thrifty Foods, Save-On-Foods, Your Independent Grocer, and Nesters Market. Soon, they’ll be releasing cherry and peach sodas as well.

He said it was the support of local residents and local retailers that set him and his family on the right path.

“I don’t think we’d ever give up-selling and going to the farmers’ market. That’s where we really get to interact with our local community members, who have been awesome and encouraged us to stick with it while we were figuring out the formula,” he said.

“Outside of the farmers’ market, we started out with Peter’s Your Independent Grocer. Peter is awesome and he really mentored me. He actually helped me get from the production side of things into retail, pointing out who to talk to and what kinds of conversations I needed to have.”

READ: ‘Underwhelming’ support for agriculture industry: BC Fruit Growers’ Association

Besides the fruit soda, Avi, Binny and Sumeet also launched a tasting bar at the family’s McKenzie Road property. But just as they were ready to open, COVID-19 hit, affecting not just the tasting bar’s performance, but the sales in grocery stores as well.

“The thing is, we just have to roll with the punches. It’s been difficult because we’ve had our store closed for the majority of (the pandemic) and even when things started loosening up, we’d rather err on the side of safety so we’ve been cautious with opening,” Avi said.

Karma said the younger generation’s new venture is exciting, but he said local farmers need help from the government, provincial, federal and municipal governments.

“This year has been difficult… we need support from the government. The federal government’s aid only helps the dairy, egg and meat farmers,” he said.

“They need to look at fruit growers too. We have problems too and it’s been difficult for us too.”

READ: Orchardists face challenges from COVID-19 pandemic


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelowna West MLA elect Ben Stewart addresses a small gathering of campaign supporters at the West Kelowna Yacht Club, shortly after hearing of his riding victory on Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo - Phil McLachlan)
Despite NDP majority, Kelowna remains Liberal stronghold

As several ridings in the Lower Mainland fell to the BC NDP, the BC Liberals retained three Kelowna seats

McCleave is eight years old.
AlleyCats pet of the week

Meet McCleave and Nyx

Renee Merrifield speaking to media on her front doorstep after winning the Kelowna-Mission riding for the BC Liberal Party. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Renee Merrifield retains BC Liberal Party’s seat in Kelowna-Mission

Renee Merrifield will take over former BC Liberal Steve Thomson’s seat, which he held for the past 11 years

(Norm Letnick)
BC Liberals’ Norm Letnick keeps Kelowna-Lake Country seat

Letnick acknowledged there could still be changes when mail-in ballots are counted

Kelowna West MLA elect Ben Stewart addresses a small gathering of campaign supporters at the West Kelowna Yacht Club, shortly after hearing of his riding victory. (Photo - Phil McLachlan)
BC Liberal Ben Stewart re-elected as MLA in Kelowna West

Stewart said he did not expect the NDP government to win a majority

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

(Google Maps)
Collision closes Highway 97A in North Okanagan

The highway has been closed since early this morning

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read