The History of Okanagan Agriculture

By: Siera Zandvliet Blk: C

Early History of Fruit Farming

Origins & General History

The land known as the Okanagan today started out much different than it is today. When one thinks of the Okanagan an immediate thought associated with the name is orchards; although it wasn't always that way. Originally the Okanagan Valley was composed mostly of massive cattle ranches, no one had yet had the idea of how fertile the Valley's soil was. When Father Pandosy planted the first apple tree, he certainly didn't expect what was to happen next. 30 years later, Lord and Lady Aberdeen established the first commercial fruit farm. It was a rough business to be in, that is until the S&O railway was built and commercial fruit growing in the Okanagan valley changed forever! With this new and easy way of transporting their produce the farmers of the Okanagan became quite popular among many people. The fruits could be prepared to last long for the travellers and miners or eaten fresh by regular settlers. After the overall success of the Aberdeen orchards many new people moved to the Valley for a taste of the riches said to come with the life of an agriculturist; little did some know how hard earned those riches could be. It became apparent that people needed to be taught how to properly grow and package fruits in order for the Okanagan fruit farming business to continue to succeed, so schools to educate new agriculturists opened. Agriculture continued to become more popular until it came to rest where it is now, one of the main fruit suppliers of the whole country!


1859-First apple tree planted by Father Pandosy

1889-First commercial orchard established

1892-S&O railway arrives in the Okanagan Valley

1910-First orcharding schools established

The Role of the Okanagan Fur Brigaid Trail

The Fur Brigaid trail is how fruit farming all began, from Pandosy settling, to budding agriculturists moving to the valley. This trail was a useful mode of transportation for all sorts of people and their things. Farmers even used the Brigaid trail to transport and ship their goods to other areas and provinces. It proved very important to the growth and development of the Okanagan Valley.

A Look Into the Life of an Early Agriculturist: Lord & Lady Aberdeen

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Early History

Lord and Lady aberdeen held important government positions in their home country of Ireland. Lord aberdeen was at one point lord lieutenant of ireland as well as governor general for canada from 1893-1898. the aberdeens had a passion for improving conditions for others. They supported tuberculosis patients, gave more rights to the poor and Lady Aberdeen created the "Irish Village" at Chicago's 'World Fair". The Aberdeens were very committed to helping others.

Initial Reasons For Settlement

They visited the Okanagan Valley and immediately sized up the situation; at the time, being unpopulated and filled with cattle ranchers. They viewed the land with optimism and in 1891 an opportunity for land purchase arose and the Aberdeens dived in. They purchased 480 acres in what is now the mission area and filled it with orchards. They loved a fixer-upper and the okanagan, at the time, definitely in need of some TLC.


They bought their land from George Grant Mckay and named it Guisachan. Which is Gaelic for "place of the firs". They originally bought 480 acres, which they turned into orchards. Until they then bought 13, 000 acres, which they divided and sold to settlers moving into the valleys to start farms. They stuck around even when it seemed like the orchards were a failed attempt, their hard work and faith in their cause has made Kelowna one of the leading fruit suppliers it is today.

Legacy Today

Today the Aberdeens are remembered through streets named in their honour and a school as well. they were such large contributors to the growth of the Okanagan Valley through their advertisement of the Valley and its many resource, bringing many new settlers tot eh Valley. This kick started more settlers to move into the Valley, until it grew to the size it is today. They truly left quite the legacy behind long after they passed away.

This picture shows one of the Aberdeen orchards when they had first began to plant fruit trees.

Interesting Facts!

Some things you may not have known about early agriculture......

-The first apple tree to be planted in what is now known as Kelowna, was planted in 1859 by Father Pandosy

-Many orchards in the Okanagan Valley began as cattle ranches and were later developed into successful fruit farms

-So many people wanted to be part of the fruit growing business that schools were opened in order to educate new agriculturists

What was the Impact of the Early Europeans on the Growth and Development of the Okanagan Valley?

(Driving Question)

Lord and Lady Aberdeen were crucial to the development and growth of the Okanagan Valley in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. When they first saw the Okanagan Valley they immediately saw the potential in the, then, cattle ranch ridden land. They decided to buy a small portion of land in order to begin an orchard. Soon after, the opportunity to buy more land and the Aberdeens obliged. They purchased another 13, 00 acres which they divided into plots and sold to aspiring fruit farmers. It was a tough and laborious business and the fruit trees that were planted didn't sprout fruit for a few years; but the Aberdeens and other agriculturists persevere; which turned out to be the right choice. Once the trees began to produce fruit the business took off and more people began to move to the Valley. the population developed from a few big cattle ranches to many orchards all along the valley. So many people began to fruit farm that schools on packing and growing fruit were opened in order to educate new fruit farmers. this series of events has made Kelowna (and the Okanagan Valley) one of the leading fruit suppliers it is today. And it all started with the Aberdeens believing in the potential of the Valley.