A new generation is active on the Lutz family farm. From left are Derek and Leanne Lutz with nine-month-old Coraline and Maureen Lutz.

Family continues orchard tradition

Derek Lutz is back working at the cherry orchard where he grew up.

There is no need to sell the family farm.

Maureen Lutz found this to be true when her son Derek and his wife Leanne moved home to help her run the orchard, after her husband Gary had suddenly taken ill and passed away.

Derek Lutz and his brother Conrad had grown up farming with their parents, first on a vineyard and then on their cherry orchard.

“It was a great way to grow up. You could be outside and you got to see the direct fruits of your labour. The success of a family farm is how much everyone puts into it. I gained the sense that we all worked for this together,” he said.

After high school Derek moved to Edmonton where he got his Bachelor of Education degree and became a teacher.

Over the years he and Conrad had returned home in the summers to help in the orchard. Derek had bought a refrigerated truck and was selling their fruit throughout Northern Alberta.

The Lutz brothers built a business together selling Okanagan fruit at the farmers markets in Edmonton. Sunbest Fruit continues to grow in operation each year.

Last year the brothers also took over the running of Granny’s Fruit Stand in Summerland.

Derek said the plan was to always come back here. After getting married he and Leanne started looking at agricultural land to buy.

“Either it was way too expensive or it was a house and land that needed a lot of money put into it to make it viable. Then when dad got sick, we said we would move back and help out and run the orchard. It is not the way we wanted to return here, but the way it happened,” he explained.

“I am very happy he is back,” Maureen said. “I would have had to sell. I couldn’t have run it by myself.”

She also expressed her concern at what she has seen over the years. Young people often leave to get their post-secondary education and then want to come back to the Okanagan but can’t because they are not able to get work here.

“We need to be able to have young families come back and be able to have affordable housing as well as decent jobs,” she said.

Derek sees farming as a way to make a good living.

“It depends on what you grow and how you grow it, whether you have the skills or experience and what kind of markets you have. My dad always had to get creative with how he marketed his fruit,” he said.

As Maureen looked at her nine-month-old granddaughter she mused, “Gary and I told the boys all through the years, this is your heritage… so if Lutzes could run this place for another few decades, that would be lovely.”

If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at carlamcleod@shaw.ca or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.