Agriculture along the Crow Route in British Columbia (4 of 5)


Establishing a farm or orchard was a very hard work and expensive but success was attainable. J. T. Bealby quoted two fruit ranchers about the establishment of their farms:

"Mr. F. G. Fauquier says (1906):

I have been living on my present location on the Lower Arrow Lake, at the Needles, about midway between Nakusp and Robson, for the past four years. My clearing has cost me from $30.00 to $40.00 per acre [$75-$100/ha]--that is cleaned up clear of stumps and roots and ready for the plough. ... Small fruits of all kinds do very well here, expecially raspberries; they will yield enormous crops if cared for.... Apples, pears, plums, and cherries all have given most satisfactory results with me. The early apples have come into bearing the second year after planting, and have continued since then giving more or less of a return every year. Bartlett (Williams') pears the same....

"Mr. Thomas Morley, writing in April, 1907, says:

We are exceedingly fortunate in Kootenay in the absence of insect pests. It is true we spray our trees, but simply as a preventive.... We claim to be absolutely free from any of the pests which cause much trouble and expense to fruit growers in other parts of the Continent of America.... We can produce Wealthy apples three years after planting, and Norhern Spy in the fourth year. The Northern Spy will produce about four boxes and the Wealthy four or five boxes per tree in five years. The price ranges from $1.50 to $2 per box.... There is no danger of the market being overcrowded, as the influx of settlers into the Canadian North-West is greater than the increase in fruit production.

Orchard land unimproved sells from $100 to $150 per acre [$250-$375/ha], and clearing costs $35 an acre [$85/ha], and upwards. A ten acre [4 ha] orchard can be planted and brought to a paying basis in four years from about $3,500."

These were, of course, success stories, and it was not easy for new immigrants without any reserves of money to establish a fruit ranch. Other income was often critical and early settlers could face several bleak and impoverished years before their crops began to return any income.

Loading ApplesMoving the crops became a key part of the Canadian Pacific's traffic and when the fruit rush started train crews were working extra shifts. The abilities of the railway to find enough cars and equipment to move the valuable and perishable crops were often stretched to the limit. For the B.C. Lake & River Service, extra vessels were called into service and the deck hands were kept busy loading the cases of fruit that would be piled along the shoreline in readiness for the arrival of the next steamer. Even in their last years of service the Moyieand Minto handled fruit for many farmers.

Far more varieties of fruit were grown in the early 1900s than are produced now. Early apple orchardists grew Yellow Transparents, Gravensteins, Weatlthys, McIntosh Reds, Cox's Orange Pippins, Jonathans, Wagners, Spitzenbergs, Rome Beauties, Northern Spys, Yellow Newton Pippins and Winesaps, Ribston Pippins, Golden Russets and Baldwins. Although most of these varieties have disappeared for commercial production, some of them can still be found in old orchards throughout the Kootenays.


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