The BC Fruit Growers’ Association sponsored a 12 cent apple sale at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market on Saturday, to shed light on the harsh challenges that apple growers are facing.
“We’re doing a 12-cent-a-pound fruit sale because that’s what growers have been getting for their fruit. It costs about 30 cents to grow a pound of fruit and so growers are losing money,” says BCFGA vice-president Peter Simonsen, who farms approximately 50 acres in Naramata and Penticton.
“It’s just an awareness campaign – I’ve been calling it ‘BC apples the farewell tour’ because I think that it’s an industry that is disappearing.”
In the last four years, apple growers in the Okanagan have received very low prices for their apples. On average in 2019, the price received for a pound of apples was $0.126. This is well below the average production cost of $.30 per pound.
“You know, apples are selling for $2 a pound in the store and we’d like our fair share of the returns for the apples,” says Simonsen.
Retail consolidation has become an issue, as there is a big difference between producer revenue and the price that consumers are paying to retailers.
And with cost of production increasing each year, BCFGA president Pinder Dhaliwal, who farms 12.7 acres in Oliver, says theres not much time left for apple growers in the Okanagan.
“As price takers, our slice of the pie gets smaller and smaller and there used to be onions, carrots and potatoes, and they have disappeared. And last year I said the farmers are drowning – well pretty soon, the apples are going to be gone and you can see it all through the valley,” he says.
Apple growers to the south in Washington State were recently given a cash subsidy of seven cents per pound for apples due to a combination of weather, market conditions and the pandemic. These subsidies are undermining Canadian agricultural viability.
“We’re competing against the U.S. taxpayer when they pay their growers seven cents a pound,” says Simonsen. “We either need to have a tariff of some kind coming onto that, over the border with that produce, or we need to match the subsidy.”
The B.C. government’s contribution to support programs for agriculture is the lowest in the country and Canada has the lowest agriculture budget among all of the developed nations.
Another large factor is the impact of the Columbia River Treaty which has vastly increased Washington State’s production size. But in turn, it’s caused Okanagan apple production to decline.
“Back in the 60s and 70s, B.C. had 12 million apple box production. Now we’re at 3 million,” says Dhaliwal. “With the Columbia River Treaty, the agriculture industry in Washington has grown. They’re at 120 million – 150 million apple production, so it’s kind of reversed.”
Simonsen adds: “It’s basically turned Washington State into an agricultural powerhouse so it would be nice if there were some benefit back to our industry from the Columbia River Treaty. We have an agricultural land reserve that does a really good job of protecting land, but we don’t have programs that do a good job of protecting farming.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in additional costs of operations for apple growers. This is in addition to the pre-existing financial pressure that has persisted over the last couple of years.
“It’s something that when we’re gone, the B.C. people are going to miss us and in this time of food security, I’m surprised that politicians in all parties don’t seem to realize that agriculture is in trouble,” says Simonsen.
And next year, B.C. will have the highest minimum wage in the country.
The BC Fruit Growers Association has asked the provincial and federal governments to increase the coverage of losses through the Business Risk Management Programs, but this help has been limited. And while the program design has been reconsidered by both levels of government, growers feel this has been discussed for many years but nothing has been achieved to better the program value and participation.
With the provincial election right around the corner, apple growers hope British Columbians will get out and meet their provincial candidates to learn about how they are planning to support the agriculture industry during this time of crisis.
Growers also encourage B.C. residents to buy local apples year-round.
The BC Fruit Growers Association plans to participate in more awareness campaigns similar to the one held at the farmers market on Saturday.
A Kelowna home was broken into Friday morning and $12,000 in cash was stolen from a safe. And a surveillance camera caught footage of the thieves.
Just after 9 a.m., a black Mercedes-Benz SUV pulled up to a Kirschner Mountain home, and after determining no one was home, a man from the SUV broke through the front door of the home.
“It’s a street where you wouldn’t expect people to be driving up and down unless you live on the street,” said the home’s owner T.J., who’s lived in the house for about five years.
TJ thinks the thief broke the front door open with his shoulder, as the door jam was broken clean off.
Over about a 15-minute period, the man “somehow” cracked T.J.’s safe, making off with $12,000 in cash, a few hard drives and some cameras.
“It almost looks like it’s targeted, all the lines point to that,” T.J. said. “But I’ve got a pretty good circle of friends, I just don’t get it.”
T.J., who owns his own drywalling company, returned from a job not far from his home just before 1 p.m. Friday, to find he had been robbed.
In addition to the cash and expensive technology that was stolen, T.J. says about 24,000 photos from his life were on the stolen hard drives.
“But all that doesn’t even matter to me, we’ve just got to find this guy and put him in jail,” he said.
Surveillance footage from the front of T.J.’s home shows at least two men involved in the robbery. A piece of cardboard appears to be covering the Mercedes’ licence plate, but T.J.’s friend noticed a small dent in the right rear of the SUV.
Police are investigating the robbery, but T.J. hopes people will keep an eye out for the SUV after the footage has been published.
Castanet’s week in review with Nich Johansen.
This year’s Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery Mixoff is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers are already looking forward to next year.
Every year in Kelowna, top bartenders from across the Okanagan face off with their cocktail creations using only local ingredients, while including one of Okanagan Spirit’s products.
The judges, along with the help of the public, then determine who will be crowned the best.
The bartenders work alongside their chefs to pair the cocktail with a bite to eat. Attendees get the chance to then sample the cocktail creation paired with the bite while enjoying live jazz music.
This year would have been the eighth annual Mixoff, however due to COVID-19 restrictions, it cannot take place.
“We value the safety of not only the public who attend, but also the bartenders and chefs who have all had a challenging year,” says producer of the event Rosanne Ting-Mak Brown.
“While you won’t be able to sample their great cocktails and fine food at the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery Mixoff this year, please visit these local independent restaurants and support them by enjoying their amazing food and drinks.”
The next Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery Mixoff is scheduled for November 4, 2021.
The 2019 winners Kyle Friesen from Waterfront Cafe and chef Rod Butters will hold onto their title for one more year.
It’s officially spooky season which means the Kelowna Corn Maze is finally open.
The annual maze has come back for its 13th season and while things may look a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s maze is the biggest yet.
“We have 21 big steel boxes and they are all decorated with animatronics,” says owner and operator Dave Bulach.
The animatronic displays include things like witches and graveyard reapers and Bulach says it’s a perfect activity for the whole family.
“We’ve done a whole bunch of different structuring in the maze this year,” he says. “We were going to have a theme maze and a family maze but we have combined [them] into one large one this year.”
And Bulach has been working tirelessly to ensure everyone can enjoy the maze safely. This includes sanitizer stations, plexiglass, social distancing reminders and more. The pathways within the maze have also been made wider.
“Just come up and enjoy. Please keep your social distancing,” says Bulach.
The corn maze is open every day of the week from 12:30 to 10:30 p.m. Animatronic displays come to life in the evening at 6 p.m. Visitors can purchase their tickets online here.
Dan Ashman (L), owner of AM Ford in Trail B.C. and DJ Ashman (R)
The couple involved in a serious chain reaction hit-and-run collision on Thursday evening is feeling lucky to be alive.
Dan Ashman, 67, of Trail B.C. was visiting Kelowna for the first time in years when the truck he was driving was struck by a speeding car on Leon Avenue.
“I never even saw the car, it was just ‘powee,’ all I could see was airbags.”
Ashman owns AM Ford in Trail, so he may be biased, but says he and his wife walked away relatively uninjured because of the truck’s safety features.
“We both have some bruises but other than that, we are OK. Thank heaven for that truck,” says Ashman.
Ashman also couldn’t say enough about the care he received, “not just the police and ambulance who were there very fast, but Nicola spent three hours with us to make sure we were OK.”
Nicola is a Kelowna resident who witnessed the crash and and would later drive Ashman and his wife back to where they were staying.
Ashman says there were also three teens who rushed to help. He was so impressed he tried to offer them some money for their help but they refused, saying, “we couldn’t accept money for this.”
Kelowna RCMP is still looking for the driver of the black Chevrolet Malibu that failed to stop for police in downtown Kelowna and allegedly caused a chain reaction hit-and-run collision, involving a total of five vehicles.
Police say they were attempting to stop the black Malibu on Harvey Avenue, but the suspect fled down Leon Ave.
The Malibu then collided with the Ford F150 pickup truck at the intersection of Bertram Street and Leon Avenue. The force of the impact caused the Malibu to collide with several parked vehicles and a light standard. The driver and sole occupant of the Malibu fled the scene on foot and has so far evaded capture.
“This driver unnecessarily put everyone in the area at risk with his dangerous behaviour,” says Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, spokeswoman for the Kelowna RCMP. “Looking at the amount of damage caused to the vehicles involved, it is extremely fortunate that no one was seriously injured or even killed in this collision.”
If you witnessed this hit and run crash and have not yet spoken to police you are asked to call the Kelowna RCMP at 250-250-762-3300.
Photo: Kaidi Richardson
A Castanet reader came across a magnificent sight on Wood Lake this week.
Shari Crowther says she was out on the lake enjoying what felt like one of the last nice days of summer, “we had just put our boat in the water and I was thinking, I’d like to see a bear, and I looked to my left there they were, it was beautiful.”
Crowther says the bears didn’t stick around long after they became aware of the boat, “they looked at us for a while and then slowly took off into the woods.”
This time of year bears are busy trying to pack on as many calories as they can before they go into hibernation, but this trio was clearly taking some time out to enjoy the lovely Okanagan weather.
“They’re really majestic creatures. It was awesome I was so happy when I saw that,” Crowther says.
Castanet appreciates your videos and photos and encourages you send them to [email protected] so we can share them with our readers.
Photo: Kelowna Gospel Mission
The annual Thanksgiving meal at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission is going ahead this year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced the cancellation of many other events around town.
This years free meal for those in the community who may otherwise go without will be served at noon on Monday, Oct. 12, at the Gospel’s 251 Leon Avenue location.
Due to the pandemic, those who are not living in the shelter will be served their meal in a to-go container, served out of the backdoor of the shelter.
The 60 men who live at the shelter will be served their meal in the Gospel’s dining room, similar to years past.
“This year, giving thanks has more meaning than ever,” said Carmen Rempel, executive director of Kelowna’s Gospel Mission.
“It is scary for our residents not knowing when the crisis is going to end. It would be overwhelming if it weren’t for the incredible acts of generosity and kindness that we are seeing in our community. The spirit of charity and caring has given us all strength this year. We believe that love and compassion is the beginning of changing lives.”
Local MP Tracy Gray and longtime MLA Norm Letnick are two of the many volunteers who will be helping serve meals on Monday.
Those in the community who are interested in helping volunteer in the future, or donate to the Gospel Mission can find more information here.
Photo: file photo
The Central Okanagan School District is looking for solutions to overcrowding at Kelowna Secondary School.
As part of its community consultation on a long-term facilities plan and emergent issues, the district says there are concerns over the growth at KSS.
According to the district the school, which opened 18 years ago, has seen a student increase of six per cent over the past three years, with expectations of a further two per cent growth next school year, and 10 per cent over the next three years.
“The school does not have any more classroom space, or the ability to add portables to accommodate additional students,” the district stated in a notice sent to parents this week.
“The district has requested a new high school in its five-year capital plan, however, this will not be a solution for the emergent capacity issue as a new school, after ministry approval, takes three to four years to complete.”
It adds approval would not be likely while there is still space for secondary students at Okanagan Mission.
The district is also looking for feedback on the possibility of adding French immersion programs to HS Grenda middle school when it opens in Lake Country in September of 2021. Presently, middle school students wishing French immersion must travel to Dr. Knox middle school.
The district is also seeking thoughts on its long-term facilities plan, last updated in 2012.
The plan provides context for discussion with the Ministry of Education regarding requests for capital funding.
The district is in the process of updating the plan due to the “significant growth” it has been experiencing.
Click here to view the district’s comprehensive consultation webpage.
Photo: Wayne Moore/file
Paul Addison with Curling Canada awarding Kelowna the Brier in November of 2019.
Kelowna Curling Club general manager Jock Tyre says the writing is on the wall.
Tyre says chances the 2021 Brier will be held in Kelowna as planned are slim to none.
“A month ago, I would have said 50-50 and now, I’d says the chances are 90-10,” said Tyre following published reports Curling Canada is seriously looking at a “bubble city” model, similar to the way the National Hockey League recently held its playoffs.
Tyre said he has heard the rumours, but believes the final nail in the coffin for Kelowna’s Brier was the massive outbreak of positive coronavirus cases in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The QMJHL began its regular season last weekend without fans, but were forced to postpone several games after several players and personnel from two teams tested positive.
Tyre says there has been no progress or meetings of volunteer groups for the Brier at this end, leading him to believe they are all resigned to the fact the event won’t happen here.
He says Calgary is the likely venue with both the Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts taking place at an arena at Calgary Olympic Park.
“You’ll have no volunteers. They will probably get a TV crew that will stay in the bubble, you’re going to get officiating, all the ice makers, then you’ll probably lock up hotel rooms all within the bubble,” he said.
This is just the latest in a string of major sporting events scheduled for the city that have been cancelled due to the pandemic.
The Memorial Cup and World Mixed Doubles and World Senior Curling Championships scheduled for 2020 were all wiped out.
There is a possibility Kelowna could be offered the Memorial Cup the next time the WHL is scheduled to host in 2023.
As for a rescheduled Brier, Tyre, who worked on Kelowna’s bid for the 2021 event says he would prefer it not come to the city in 2022.
“I don’t want it. It’s an Olympic year, and assuming the Olympics go ahead, it would be a terrible Brier to have,” said Tyre speaking personally and not as GM of the curling club.
“Attendance is very poor in Olympic years because everyone spends their curling money going to the Olympic Trials.”
Curling Canada has already cancelled a number of high profile events, and has indicated an official announcement concerning the Brier and Scotties would be coming soon.