Early Okanagan Orchards

By Morgynn Beselt

History of Orchards

Origins and Dates

The history of orchards in the Okanagan valley starts back in 1862, when Father Pandosy planted the first apple tree seeds. Lord and lady Aberdeen started the first orchards in Kelowna in the early 1890's. The possibility for profit looked good in the Okanagan so people such as the greenhorns came in looking for fortune but like many they didn't know anything about growing fruit. After 1898 the fruit industry flourished after the Klondike god rush. By 1900 the Okanagan had over 1 million fruit trees growing. The earliest recorded grapes being grown was in 1905. People were needed to help work in the orchards so in 1910 packing schools were set up in B.C.. The course was $1 for a 2 week long course. Originally trucks were used for shipping; but come 1914 the kettle valley railway was opened, which was a positive addition for shipping produce. From 1917-18 the laurel packing house was made by the B.C. Growers Industry, which is still around in the Okanagan today. Machinery was first introduced in 1921 to the apple packing house. In 1924 the first apple breeding program began in the valley. The fruit industry wasn't all happy sailing though. In 1930 the depression hurts the fruit industry. But it doesn't hold it back. In 1936 sprinklers replaced ditches. In 1979 another company, still around today, called Sun Rype becomes the first juice company in Canada to provide tetra packaging for 250ml and 1L juice packs.


The impact early orchards had on the growth of the Okanagan Valley was mainly putting it on the map! When people such as lord and lady Aberdeen saw the potential for fruit growth in the valley new settlers came in seeking that potential as well. Before fruit growing started the land was mostly owned by cattle ranchers for meat to sell to the CPR railroad workers. The start of orchards changed and added to the new settlers because it added to the variety of jobs they could have. Orchards positively added to the growth of the Okanagan Valley.

Role of Fur Brigade Trail

The Fur Brigade trail did play a role in the farming in the Okanagan valley but by the time orchards were becoming popular in the valley other uses of transportation had been put in place. Although people did need a way to get into the valley originally, so it did affect the orchards later on. The first settlers who discovered the valley used the fur brigade trail to get here. It's a chain reaction. Without the trail the valley couldn't have been discovered, which down the line would affect the orchard industry. Instead of the trail people got to the valley by trains and trucks, such as the kettle valley railway or the Canadian Pacific railway. At this time these were more effective.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen

Early History

Lord and lady Aberdeen came to the valley from Britain with high hopes of apple trees being successfully grown in the Okanagan. They purchased 13000 acres of land to start their business on. They put a lot of time and money into making it right. They sold their produce to other settlers in the valley. They encouraged other people to come in an try their business too, which they strongly believed in.

Reasons for settlement in Okanagan

When lord and lady Aberdeen first came to the valley in 1890 it was on a vacation but also to look for an estate to place lady Aberdeen's 'do-nothing' brother. They bought a summer house and named in the Guisachan House after lady Aberdeen's home in Scotland. When they visited they saw the potential for fruit growth and decided to buy 13000 acres of land. They planted their orchards and succeeded in the business.

Early Accomplishments out of the Okanagan Valley

Before coming to the valley the pair was already successful. They had just finished creating the Irish Village in Chicago. Both people are not just known for being brilliant farmers. Lord Aberdeen was actually the governor general of Canada from 1893-98. Lady Aberdeen held a title herself. She was the president of the International Council for women from 1893-99.

Early Okanagan Valley Accomplishments

The main accomplishment for lord and lady Aberdeen in the Okanagan Valley is being successful fruit tree growers in the valley. They planted the first large-scale of fruit trees in the Okanagan. Doing this they inspired others to come to the valley and try farming too.

Legacy Today

Today when you hear the name 'Aberdeen' you may think of a few places. A popular one is the Guisachan House, which is a heritage house in Kelowna. Today it also functions as a restaurant. Aberdeen Preparatory School, which is also in Kelowna, is named after the couple. They also have a tie to the B.C. Fruit Growers Association from their orchard work.

Driving Question

What was the impact of the early Europeans on the growth and developement of the Okanagan Valley?

The impact lord and lady Aberdeen had on the growth and development of the Okanagan valley was creating a new industry. They were the first to make growing orchards a successful business. The pair showed that a little hard work and patience can pay off in the end. They inspired others, mostly from the middle and upper-class, to come and visit the beautiful valley and try to make a living off it. People flooded in from around the world. Lord and lady Aberdeen were also well known people in Canada being governor general so choosing to live in the Okanagan showed it off. These people started a long lasting industry that still thrives today. Without them the economy may have not grown as quick or developed enough to make it a successful city.

Interesting Facts

- The first stern-wheel steam ship on Okanagan lake was named after lord Aberdeen; called the S.S. Aberdeen
-Today fresh fruit and by-products is the one of the top major industries in the Okanagan Valley
-The American Linden tree that lady Aberdeen planted outside of the Guisichan house is a heritage tree in Kelowna