Okanagan Agriculture

By Ran Nussen

The start of Okanagan agriculture

The first fruit trees were planted in the Okanagan in 1857 in Penticton, then later on in 1862 in Kelowna. These first few trees turned into very successful orchards by the 1900's, which was around the boom days of the orchard industry in the Okanagan, however while most fruits were very successful, the grape industry began to slow down as grapes were more specific on where each kind had to grow. While the grape industry slowed down, more and more settlers who some were even originally just fur traders travelling on the brigade trail, discovered the potential of agriculture and gold mining and settled in the Okanagan instead, which meant more farmers, missionaries, miners, and ranchers were settling which then attracted even more settlers, which is how the Okanagan's industries grew so quickly.

J.W Hughes

J.W Hughes was originally a settler in the Okanagan who came from Europe to test which kinds of grapes could be planted in the Okanagan's fertile soil, specifically he tried on Black Mountain, which is in eastern Kelowna. He found that 11/42 grapes he tried planting on Black Mountain and the surrounding areas could survive there, which gave him and new farmers the knowledge which told them which grapes could be successfully planted in the Okanagan, which saved time instead of each person having to spend time and money experimenting with the grapes. Now that the options were clear, more vineyards were established which eventually restarted the grape industry in 1928, which is our main industry today. Eventually J.W Hughes sold most of his vineyards to his workers, who then established their own new vineyards from there, attracting new settlers and allowing some vineyards to survive even up to present day. We owe Hughes for giving us the knowledge on how to successfully plant grapes and fruits here in the Okanagan.

Interesting Facts

-Although the Fur Brigade Trail that led to the Okanagan was originally started by the First Nations, the Europeans established the orchards and vineyards we still have today, although we owe the First Nations for leading European explorers here with the Brigade Trail.

-The reason the first fruit trees were planted in Penticton rather than Kelowna is because when peaches were planted in Penticton, then later tasted, they had a very sweet taste and grew very well due to the very fertile soil there.

How did the early Europeans impact the growth and development of the Okanagan Valley?

The Europeans were led to the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail which was made by the First Nations, from there they brought miners, farmers, ranchers, and missionaries, who from there attracted thousands of new settlers to the Okanagan, which established the economy and the modern industries of the Okanagan. The Europeans developed and grew the industries of the Okanagan, which attracted settlers all over the Okanagan who had their own businesses as well, leading to the booming industries we have today.
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J.W Hughes harvesting grapes.
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Black Mountain and the area surrounding it.
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Hughes first orchards surrounding Kelowna and Black Mountain (right)