After 60 years of farming fruit, 87-year-old Barbara Geres has sold her home and orchard.
“I sold it all. I won’t miss it. Sixty years is long enough,” she said.
Geres was born in Kennedy, Sask. and came to Summerland in 1945 as a young woman looking for work.
The thought that prompted her to come was, “Go west young girl, go west! There’s nothing here for you but dust storms and drought and grasshoppers.”
In Summerland she found a friendly town, ideal for home life.
“When I came here I thought… this is the country! I like the trees, I like the valleys and I like the fruit,” Geres said.
It was with the Doherty family that she found work as a housekeeper and was first introduced to orchard work and the fruit industry.
She later worked at a local restaurant, Mac’s Café where she cooked and baked and met her soon to be husband Jack Geres.
They were married in 1949, in the same house that she has lived in and surrounded by the same land she has farmed since that time.
Although her husband Jack had bought the orchard in Prairie Valley, it was not where his interest lay. He wanted to continue his education and to become a plumber and gas fitter and to work with the public. He soon started his own business called Geres’ Plumbing and Heating.
“The orchard then got to be too much for him and he couldn’t keep up, so I stepped in,” said Geres.
Over the years Geres continued to farm the orchard, taking great interest in the fruit trees.
She also grew a large garden and learned to sew and upholster furniture.
For the 22 years that her husband was in business, she looked after the office for him and learned a lot about plumbing.
Together the couple raised two children and were able to send them to college.
“We had a happy marriage and the kids were brought up with good schooling,” said Geres.
Jack Geres passed away in 2001.
“I cared for him. I didn’t give up,” said Geres. “I always said you’ll never go into a home. I took care of him until he died here at home.”
After the loss of her husband, Geres decided to carry on with her life in the orchard.
“I hired extra help and continued on with the knowledge I knew,” she said.
In 2004, Geres married Heinz Wartenberg, enjoying another six years of marriage, until he too passed away.
“Then I carried on alone again,” said Geres.
Each year she harvested her fruit, with the aid of hired help. Whatever fruit she did not send to the packing house, or sell to tourists, she donated to the Food Bank.
“Why waste it? Give it away,” was her motto.
During her life Geres said she and both husbands always took time to travel.
In recent years she has been involved in mission work with Global Habitat of Canada. She went to Cambodia one year and to El Salvador last year.
“People in Canada do not know how fortunate they are,” said Geres.
“Since I found out what is involved when doing mission work in other countries and how poor they are…and we have more here than we can handle, well I can’t help but talk about that and I’m not shutting up about it!”
Geres is looking forward to moving to her new home closer to town. She intends to perhaps do more mission work in the years to come and to get back into sewing, now that she does not have to attend to agriculture.
“This farm has sold and I have no regrets. I’m just happy it went in a very honest Christian way,” said Geres.