Early Agriculture in the Okanagan

By: Lucas Overton

Origins of Agriculture in Okanagan

The first fruit trees planted in the Okanagan were planted in 1857 by Hiram F. Smith. In 1869, Tom Ellis planted apple trees over in Penticton. In 1897 the 3rd orchard was planted and was 35 acres large. In 1906, Frank Richter won 23 prizes at the annual provincial exhibition for his fruit, showing how well or soil grows crops. In 1900, Lord Aberdeen purchased 480 acres of farm land in the mission area

How the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail developed agriculture

For starters, the Okanagan Fur Brigade trail helped get farmers and such to great, fertile soil, that grew good crops easily. Also, the trail helped them commute across the province without much hardship. The need of food to feed all the miners and such was in high demand, and the Fur Brigade Trail helped give them an easy path to travel and help feed. The spread of word that the farming was ideal, and all of the people in need of food showed how the Okanagan Fur Brigade trail helped agriculture grow in the B.C. Interior


Early European Profile: Giovanni Casorso


Early History

Giovanni Casorso was originally from Piedmont, Italy. Back in Italy his name was written as Giovanni Casorzo but later, in North America, it was changed to John Casorso for easier pronunciation. In the Okanagan, his farm flourished, and in 1925 his first vineyards were planted. Mainly he sold grapes to large wineries. He also helped establish the first winery in Kelowna.

Reasons for settlement in Okanagan

Giovanni casorso emigrated from Italy because of Father Pandosy. Father Pandosy convinced him to come to the Okanagan to try his hand at agriculture. He then worked as an agricultural specialist for all of the missionaries.

Early Accomplishments

Before moving to North America, he was enrolled in the army for a while. Also, their family was extremely wealthy in agriculture and they owned and farmed over one thousand acres of rich soil.

Accomplishments in the Okanagan Valley

In the Okanagan, Giovanni Casorso was extremely successful in growing onions. So successful in fact, that he won the Onion King one year. (Year was not specified) Other than that, Mr. Casorso was majorly successful in most parts of agriculture, and in his later years, he opened some retail stores across British Columbia Interior.


Giovanni Casorso's main legacy today is Ann Sperling. After over 100 years, the original Casorso farm still lives, but now lays Sperling Vineyards. Ann Sperling is a direct descendant of Giovanni, and she founded Sperling Vineyards. As of today, they still use some of the original vines from Giovanni himself, although they have expanded mildly.


Impact of Giovanni Casorso on the Okanagan Valley

While the impact that Giovanni Casorso had on the growth and development of the Okanagan Valley was not immense, it still helped in a few major ways. For starters, he was one of the first farmers doing agriculture in the Okanagan area. After a couple years, he quickly became extremely wealthy, and owned enough land that would make a man go bankrupt if he tried to purchase it nowadays. The thought of this kind of wealth brought many farmers to the Okanagan area in thought of riches. The population grew wildly on this thought, but that was not all Giovanni Casorso did. He was one of the main supplier of grapes to many major wineries in the Okanagan. This helped their business boom, and thus helping the business grow immensely.

Fun Facts

  1. Giovanni’s wife, Rosa, came to join her husband with their three small children, but arrived in San Francisco and was unable to speak English. Dock hands advised her to follow the church bell that was being shipped to the Okanagan Mission. She followed the bell and found Casorzo.
  2. In the 1920's, when tobacco was in large demand, the casorso farm became a major supplier of tobacco