Type of entity
Authorized form of name
B.C. Fruit Growers Association, Salmon Arm fonds
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The B.C. Fruit Growers' Association operated a local chapter in Salmon Arm.
The following history of the organization is courtesy of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives:
In November 1888, Alex McD. Allan of the Fruit Growers' Association of Ontario urged the Vancouver Board of Trade and City Council to 'one and all, work, speak, and think for the interests of horticulture'. As a result, a meeting was called in February 1889 to discuss bringing the horticulturists of the province together to exchange ideas and knowledge, and to raise standards in growing and marketing.
The newly formed association's constitution was drawn up with the objective 'to encourage the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and pursuits pertaining to horticulture, the promotion of bee culture, holding of exhibitions and collecting information regarding the different varieties of fruit best adapted for cultivation in this Province'.
The first year of operation saw the association tackling the problems of marketing, packaging and education. The first exhibition was held in May 1889. The 1890's saw the expansion of markets into Japan and the Prairies, with increased emphasis on pest control and improvements in packing. In the early days of the fruit industry in B.C., the chief centres for growing were Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, and Lytton. By 1904, due to irrigation projects in the Okanagan Valley, this area became a leading fruit growing centre point. By 1910, increased competition from Farmers' Institutes resulted in declining membership in the BCFGA. During the 1920's, problems also arose as a result of non - cooperation between the numerous independent shippers in B.C.
Aaron Shapiro, organizer of the citrus growers of California, spoke to the members of the BCFGA stressing the importance of organizing for the purpose of distribution. His message was heard and by 1923, 80 % of the growers in B.C. had signed up. As the largest shipping company in the province, the BCFGA carried the greatest share of the burden of distributing the crops. Expenses rose as cold storage facilities had to be provided. Increasing competition from independent producers resulted in the formation of marketing boards in the late 1920s.
By 1931 the Produce Marketing Act was struck down by the Supreme Court, and internal competition between shippers began again. By 1933, the BCFGA was bankrupt due to the withdrawal of provincial funding and the lack of support from growers. A small group of Vernon growers put the association together again, but low prices forced the organization's members to refuse to deliver fruit to shippers unless guaranteed a reasonable price. A grower's strike resulted. The BCFGA again led the way in obtaining both federal and provincial marketing acts to stabilize prices. By 1939, the BCFGA was still battling the issue of how to set up a successful central selling agency. By 1940, the federal government took complete control of marketing, a situation that lasted until 1947. Trade restrictions banning importation of fruit from the U.S. created excellent domestic markets for B.C. growers.
The severe winter 1949/1950 devastated many orchards in the Shuswap, and the BCFGA was forced to distribute a quarter of a million dollars of government funding for tree replacement. By 1955, the fruit industry was in trouble again. Despite a booming economy, the growers were going broke. They felt that the BCFGA was top-heavy and lacking in initiative. As a result of a BCFGA convention resolution, a royal commission was set up to investigate the industry. In their published McPhee Report of 1958, the commission gave a general approval to the system as it stood. With the improvement in B.C.'s highways in the 1950s and 1960s, it became easier for fruit to be shipped to market. Local sales jumped as tourism increased. Unfortunately, many orchards were being replaced by housing. The BCFGA began a campaign to emphasize the economic importance of farmers to their communities. A combination of high operating costs, low returns and lack of government assistance led to demands for reform of BCFGA policies. In 1973, the Land Commission Act was passed, and the BCFGA worked with the provincial government to rectify the inadequacies of agriculture. Between 1974 and 1989, the BCFGA and the tree fruit industry worked on distribution of their product and how to defuse rivalries between the various agricultural organizations and packing houses. Marketing boards fell into disfavour as consumers accused them of being responsible for the rising cost of food. In 1974, 20 out of 2800 growers left the BCFGA to become independent. During the 1970s and 1980s, the BCFGA struggled with changes in government policies, low crop returns, further erosion of farmland, and competition from cheap imports of fruit. In 1989, the BCFGA celebrated their 100th year of existence.
Salmon Arm, B.C.
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