Agriculture

A Broken Culture Has Started Flogging Candy in the Okanagan Now

Land was taken from the Okanagan Indian Band to start a cattle industry in the 1860s, to generate a cash economy to support the administration of the colony of British Columbia and then the Canadian Province of the same name. A secondary goal was to create employment, that could build a civil society on a European model. Private property rights were a way of supporting that goal. 30+ years later, even after land and water-use laws that privileged large White farmers, that industry was finished and the land was sold to investors, who divided it up into orchard plots and sold them at a profit. As B.C. Tree Fruits says:

(Actually, the Okanagan Indian Band can remember longer.)

By 1914, there was a depression, then war, water was scarce and the farms were in crisis. For the next four decades, funds went into subsidizing high country water systems, further alienating land from the Okanagan Indian Band and the Splatsin Nation, to enable orchards to survive in an inhospitable climate. Now, the orchards receive tax and water subsidies, based on these foundations, and the apples are allowed to fall to the ground if they’re not perfect. Labour, one of the original goals, is not hired to pick them, transport them, sort them or store them.

The result is this:

Save-On Foods

This supermarket is honestly and no doubt proudly presenting locally-grown apples to local apple eaters. The price is around $1 per apple, as you can see, no doubt a reasonable price to support the infrastructure that delivers them. Whether the infrastructure is or is not necessary is another question for another day. For now, here’s the thing:

What’s that? 2000 apples? If apples were really worth $1 each, $2000 of apples wouldn’t be lying here. That price only exists because there is a surplus of apples, which the image above shows. When that surplus is eliminated, the price can be driven up. The true price of apples, though, is likely what someone would pay to come in and pick the good ones off the trees, or the “bad” ones off the ground. And what’s that? 15 cents each? 25 cents? a nickel? Unfortunately, the ground is treated with pesticides and herbicides, again to eliminate labour, not to mention Canada goose poop, so it’s likely not the greatest place to be sourcing apples, so, really, the apples in the image above have no value. There is, however, the curious value in reverse that comes at the moment of casting them down. One minute they’re worth, what, a quarter of the $1 a pound they sell for in town, and the next second nothing. This is not what a thriving industry looks like. Like the cattle industry before it, this industrial model of agriculture is dead. Ironically, building houses on the land does nothing for food sustainability and lowers the price of existing houses, because the view over the orchards, a part of their value, is instantly removed. And so, just as it was in the 1860s, agricultural land use is subsidized for non-agricultural purposes. They are, in short, her to benefit the wealthy and to support their lifestyle: first in large cattle ranches, then in large profits by selling the ranches off for orchards, then in providing views or wealthy landowners, and all without the labour that would, perhaps, justify removing this land (and this wasted food) from the life of the community. But, don’t take it from me. B.C. Tree Fruits knows the real skinny:

Got that? All of that: the dispossession, the racist manipulation of law, the subsidies of water, privatization and taxation, the dispossession of labour, the poisoning of land and water, and the casting of large volumes of apples onto the ground to keep the price up and labour down, to produce, don’t take it from me, let the industry speak for itself, “nature’s candy”?

This culture is broken.

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