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Summerland has had long history of fruit production

Peach trees have been growing in Summerland for more than 120 years
Fred Harvey makes wooden fruit boxes for transport in 1918. The fruit industry has been an important part of Summerland’s economy throughout the community’s history. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

The orchard and fruit industry has a long history in Summerland.

When J.M. Robinson arrived in Summerland around 1900, he found a new peach tree growing near the reservoir.

The tree is believed to have grown from a peach pit, discarded several years earlier by George Gartrell while he was on his lunch break.

Robinson wanted to see the region as “an arid range clothed in fruit threes with little streams trickling between them.”

In addition to fruit growing, Summerland has also played a role in fruit development with the creation of the Summerland Research Station, now the Summerland Research and Development Centre.

In 1909, Sydney Fisher, the federal minister of agriculture visited the community. Robinson, H.C. Mellor and MP Martin Burrell had urged him to set up an experimental farm in the area.

In 1914, the federal government purchased 162 hectares from Antoine Pierre Drive. Of this land, 81 hectares below the railway tracks was for irrigated farming while 81 hectares above the railway was for dry farming.

The facility has been used for agricultural work, especially apple development. 

Numerous fruit varieties, including peaches, apples, apricots and cherries have been developed at the Summerland site. One of the best-known varieties to come out of Summerland was the Spartan apple. Work on the variety began in 1924 and the commercial trial took place in 1936. 

Summerland continues to have a fruit industry and the agricultural research centre continues with its work. However, since the 1990s, there has been a shift to grape growing and wine production in the South Okanagan community.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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