Summerland’s oldest family farm is now in the hands of its fifth generation.
James Gartrell arrived in Trout Creek in 1885 and brought his family from Ontario in 1887.
He staked out a piece of land known as a pre-emption and proceeded to clear the land and build a home with the lumber. He planted the very first commercial peach orchard in the area. He was also granted the first water license in order to dam the waters of Trout Creek, thus providing irrigation to his fruit trees.
His peaches provided the miners of Camp McKinney and Fairview with fresh fruit, and were hauled there in a wagon pulled by a team of six horses. It took three days to make the round trip.
The farm was eventually passed on to his son Fredrick Richard Gartrell, who added to the orchard, muskmelon and zuccamelon crops, as well as a commercial honey operation.
In 1946, Fredrick’s son Lloyd Gartrell returned home from the war and took over the farm, hoping to make enough money off of it to feed his family.
When the crops froze out in 1951, he was forced to take a job with the cable company. Although he continued to live and raise his children on the farm, the operation of it was handled by several different managers in the years to follow. New crops were planted, adding to the peaches, apples, apricots and prunes. The fruit went to local canneries and packing houses.
After getting a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, Lloyd’s son David Gartrell took over the farm in 1978.
His brother Fred Gartrell, who had been with the Bank of Nova Scotia, joined him in 1981.
“I always told everyone that every agrologist needs a banker to keep the farm going, someone who understands finances,” said David.
“People told us a person should never work with family, but in 25 years of farming together, we only had one major dispute and that only lasted a few hours,” Fred added.
Together the brothers bought up more land. They replaced old trees with high density planting of newer varieties of apples.
Although both men have now retired and the farm is being run by David’s son-in-law, they still think there is a future in farming.
“My hope is that agricultural land is going to be more valuable in the future. The land is scarce and the population of the planet is increasing,” Fred stated.
“You get tied to the land you farm. You are not going to make a fortune in farming, but there is a lot of satisfaction from working the land and producing food,” David said.
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