The sorting line at the Vernon Fruit Union, Winfield, early 1940s. Photo: Lake Country Museum

The history of Okanagan fruit farming detailed by local author

Don McNair’s Apple Valley: A Century of Fruit Farming in the Okanagan visits Lake Country Museum

Local author Don McNair is sharing the history of agriculture and fruit farming in the Okanagan.

With his new book Apple Valley: A Century of Fruit Farming in the Okanagan, which will be presented at the Lake Country Museum on June 8, details the creation and difficulty of the original fruit farming markets.

“Fruit farming did not come naturally to the Okanagan,” McNair said. “People had to bend the environment in order for farming to prosper. Bend the water systems, introduce new species and develop pesticides.”

“It was thought that it was a relatively easy thing to do to generate good fruit and to make a living, and that was utterly false.”

READ MORE: Lake Country Museum hosts fruit-farming history author

Though McNair has no farming background, this was a project he and the Lake Country Museum added to their commitment to making the massive amounts of material in the archives available to the public.

With 28 pages and lots of detailed pictures, Apple Valley: A Century of Fruit Farming in the Okanagan additionally breaks down how the local economic industry was impacted by 2oth century farmers and the massive labour force.

McNair said the size of the industry was one of the biggest things that surprised him during his research, and that the Okanagan was treated as a single body, as the same difficulties farmers faced at the time expanded across the valley.

“There was enough common issues and problems so you could treat the whole valley as one, there was a unity in the story,” he said.

READ MORE: Alberta company proposes expanded bus service in Okanagan-Shuswap

Another surprise to McNair was the reactions from readers on how poorly the agricultural industry treated the environment. It was an industry that people originally thought was gentle on the environment.

“It was always an onslaught on the environment,” he said.

“Only now are we finding ways around the onslaught, as agriculture still involves hammering the environment.”

The difficulties and environmental footprint were both big parts of the story that still affect the remaining fruit farming industries in the Okanagan.

READ MORE: Boil water notice rescinded for Lake Country, Kelowna

The Apple Valley book launch, along with a meet-and-greet with McNair, is slotted for Saturday, June 8, at 2 p.m., at the museum.

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