Lake Country orchardist Tarsem Dhoot was presented with the Compact Orchard Award Thursday at the industry’s annual horticulture forum in Kelowna.
Orchard industry awards were presented at the first B.C. Tree Fruit Horticultural Symposium organized jointly by the Okanagan Packinghouse and Fieldmen’s Group and the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association.
In previous years, a horticultural forum has been hosted in Penticton by the BCFGA, and a fieldmen’s workshop in Kelowna.
This year, they joined forces to put on one larger event, and it will be followed by a second day of grower meetings today focussed on the cherry industry.
That will include the annual meeting of the Okanagan-Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association and the annual election of officers, as well as presentations on research into cherry growing issues.
Nearly 300 growers registered for this year’s event, compared to 180 at the forum last year. It includes a major display of equipment and products for the industry.
Growers heard researchers from U.S. universities talk about current research into how best to grow larger apples, pollen tube growth and the effects of lime-sulphur, chemical thinning of fruit, the Sterile Insect Release program, controlling critters in the orchard, growing peaches, maintaining spray equipment, the Environmental Farm Practices program and farm safety.
Today, growers will learn about Spotted Wing Drosophila, a new pest of soft fruits and grapes, cherry splitting, mildew, nutrition and early cherry varieties developed at the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre in Summerland.
Three awards are presented annually at the event, to growers judged to have grown the top fruit in different categories.
Dhoot has his master’s degree in agriculture and his family operates 10.5 acres of Ambrosia, Gala and McIntosh apples.
They purchased the orchard in 1992, but prior to that Dhoot worked in orchards and leased orchards.
He was born and educated in India and moved to Canada in 1981.
Tree fruit specialist for the provincial agriculture ministry, Jim Campbell, one of the judges for the annual industry awards, said the Dhoot Ambrosia block yielded high quality, large-sized apples last year as a result of good thinning, pruning and nutrition.
“It all clicked for him last year,” commented Campbell.
Awards were also presented to Tom Ouchi of Vernon, who received the Golden Apple Award.
He is a third generation grower on what started out as a vegetable farm in the 1920s and was replanted to apples in the late 1950s.
Currently, it produces 18 acres of mostly Ambrosias, Galas and Spartans with some Fuji, McIntosh, Golden Delicious and Aurora apples.
There are also some peaches and two acres of vegetables for the pick-your-own part of the business.
Ouchi has a commerce degree and was in the real estate business prior to taking over the family farm.
The Soft Fruit Award was presented to Jake van Westen Jr. of Naramata for his 28 acres of Lapins, Sweetheart and Skeena cherries.
He was raised and educated in the area and worked as a carpenter for awhile before joining his father, Jake Sr. in 2002.
They now operate 14 acres of apples as well as wine grapes.
Campbell said there were a lot of nominations this year, with 18 alone for the two apple awards, and “all were excellent,” he said.
Ironically, he noted, the prices for these very well-grown crops do not reflect the high quality of apples grown here in B.C.
The BCFGA represents the 800 or so commercial orchards in B.C., with a mandate to foster a healthy food system for the long-term prosperity of B.C. tree fruit growers.