Why British Columbia Needs To Extend Its Support for its Fruit Industry.

Nice farm, huh.P1010370 What are they growing?P1010371 Trouble and debt.P1010373Approximately 66,000 apple tree roots planted last spring and grafted late last summer. P1010380 Subsidized by the Ministry of Agriculture. The idea is to save money: plant the root, graft a desired bud onto it in early August, cut it off above the bud in March, and grow a tree. Trees cost about $10 wholesale if a nursery does this. Looking at the mess below, that might be a good idea.P1010381Thing is, this is the North Okanagan and late August is too late. A month too late. Grafting success should be between 94 and 99%.  We’re looking at, um, less than 1%.P1010393

Land: $1,400,000. 30 Acres. Government estimated costs, other than trees: $180,000. My estimates: roots (rootstocks, actually), $100,000; grafting, $20,000; grafting wood, $66,000. Total, estimated: $366,000, plus the land, for a big whack: $1,766,000. I might be a bit off on these figures, but even as educated guesses you can see that

that’s a hell of  lot of money gone down the drain.

Look below. You can see that the weeds have gotten out of hand. The trees whacked off below … (the graft on the third from the left is growing, but how can it compete with the weeds?) …

P1010396 … should all be two to four inches high. My apricot grafts from the summer are10 inches high. They start earlier than apples, though. My nectarine was slow, but they’re late. My apple trees (not babies like these) have grown 6 inches. We aim for that, but expect a delay. I grafted three apple trees on August 20, fearing it was too late, but I had a chance at some rare grafting wood, so nothing lost. They didn’t make it. That was a week before this grafting job (above) started. I feared the worst all winter long. Sadly, my fears came true. For healthy nursery growth, the rough measure is: 1 foot, by June 30, and 1 inch a day until the third week of August and perhaps into September in a warm year. The deal is: apples in the second year, with careful and expert growing. The deal is: weed the things by hand; we’re not fooling around here. Weedkiller (see above) doesn’t reduce competition; it only reduces tangles. This farmer is busy grafting a small portion of his 66,000 new trees this spring, at about $2 per tree, and is not getting to fertilizer, water, weeding, or anything else. I bet the pockets are pretty empty.It’s crisis time. The deal is, the government invests $2.50 into the trees, approves a paper plan and an expert inspection of the site and documents, and then lets the farmers go at it, because “they’re the experts and they know best.” I saw that quote in the fall, but can’t find it right now. It’s not an exact quote from the government, but it’s from a politician, and it’s close. There’s an answer to it, though:

No, they don’t.

The culture has been broken. (Yes, it’s not called agri – culture because it’s agri- business or something. It’s an ancient culture.) Today, knowledge is no longer passed on. Not specific knowledge like this. It’s not as if you can go to IT school and learn this stuff. You have to learn it from someone who has done it, for years. I learned it when I was ten, from Karl Mangold, and 12, from Joe (Sepp) Treidl, and when I was 22 from Hugh Dendy. I learned about early season grafting disasters in 1970, on the old Richter Ranch, which isn’t called, we learned that winter, Siberian Flats for nothing. We’re talking 48 years of knowledge in my hands. I went to the local college, warning that this was going to happen and it could be prevented. I was told that no courses can be offered unless industry demands them. That’s how the college does things, I was told: it provides specific training to workers that industry wants trained. Well, the thing is, and I’ll say it only once, we used to have a network of horticultural experts who made sure that this didn’t happen. Now we have none and now it does.

P1010404

But the rhetoric is very fine:

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick (October 15, 2015) –

“The B.C. treefruit industry asked for a long-term replant program and the B.C. government delivered it. The funding is available now and it provides employment and business opportunities for B.C. growers while ensuring British Columbians have access to fresh and local foods.”

BC Fruit Growers’ Association president Fred Steele –

“Replant is critical to the future of our industry as we need to produce high quality, new varieties of tree fruit to compete locally and to seize export opportunities. We appreciate the B.C. government’s early launch of the second year of the replant program and their investment in the renewal of B.C. orchards that is critical to the future of Okanagan tree fruit farms.”

It’s time to bring the horticulturalists back. Ted Swales, we need you, man. All you giants, gone to spirit. I remember you. I remember when this stuff worked.

 

6 thoughts on “Why British Columbia Needs To Extend Its Support for its Fruit Industry.

  1. Knowledge is no longer passed down is something that occurs in corporate America as well as in agribusiness. Elders are being disguarded. Happened to me and many of my freinds. History is not important.

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      • When older people are made redundant all communications are cut. No way to pass information on. Teaching would be nice, but no one wants to hire old people.

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      • Absolutely, teaching belongs to the keepers of bureaucracies, even the keepers of new ones. Those of us concerned with the earth need to lay down a different record. It has happened. Kaschnitz, for example, who was discovered by the 60s, when she was in her 60s, and carried prewar Germany forward into the postwar one. It can be done.

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      • They got caught out trying to do this on the cheap. I think the seduction of cheap Mexican labour is part of that. Not that their Mexican labourers aren’t working hard. Just that the cheap labour allows for actions that otherwise might be better thought out. As well, the lure of poorly-supervised government money also leads to foolishness. This is what that looks like. In urban industry, it looks like bad architecture and cost overruns, that kind of thing. Here it is not recoverable. There is no-one to pass the debt onto except to society as a whole.

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