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A Fruitful Century

The First Year

A fruitful century

1889 went well for the B.C.F.G.A. The British Columbia government was not quite ready to match the $1800 support that the much more populous province of Ontario gave to its provincial fruit growers’ association. However, on the urging of Mayor Oppenheimer, it did grant $500. This was a generous subsidy to an organization which itself came up with only $120 from the sale of sixty memberships.

The exhibition of fruits, flowers, and vegetables, on August 7th in the Van Horne Block on Granville Street in Vancouver, was “considered by all who visited it a grand success and such . . . as must produce a good effect on the importance of fruit growing in the Province.” Two hundred and sixty prizes were offered, amounting to $243.50 in value. But in light of questions which had earlier been raised, it was significant that there were no entries from outside the Lower Mainland and the Victoria area. Already the B.C.F.G.A. was running into the problem of different regional needs and interests.

The Directors continued their discussions on proper techniques of fruit culture, and of the problems of marketing. They arranged to affiliate the B.C.F.G.A. with the Ontario Fruit Growers’ Association, at the rate of eighty cents per head, so members would receive the publications of that Society and the free plants which it distributed to members.

At the Directors’ meeting on August 8th they passed the first of a perennial series of resolutions calling for tariff protection against imported fruit. 5 Such sentiments have been echoed almost every year of the Association’s existence, and are still a major concern a hundred years after they were first voiced.

The first year finished with the annual meeting on February 14, 1890. This meeting established the pattern for future conventions: reports by officers were followed by discussions of resolutions. On this occasion one resolution was that the proceedings of the Association be printed for distribution. Another, put by the marketing committee, deplored the fact that:

owing to the lack of a system amongst the fruit growers for the disposal of their fruit, many tons of fine fruit, especially plums, annually go to waste, or are slaughtered in the market, while, at the same time, fruit of an inferior quality is constantly being shipped in from California and elsewhere to supply the demand.

The committee proposed measures, including standardizing packages, auction markets in Vancouver and Victoria, and designating an employee of the Association who would prepare market reports and assist members in packaging their fruit properly and disposing of it. (One member later recalled that “it was common to see British Columbia fruit displayed in large, uncouth boxes made out of split cedar, filled in with all sizes, kinds, and varieties. When placed alongside of the neatly packed and uniform packages from Oregon and California it had only one effect, and that was to make customers for the imported article.”) After the resolutions, speakers presented papers on various topics:

“Fruit Growers’ Associations: Their Objects” by R.E. Gosnell
“Strawberries” by W.J. Harris
“Pears” by E. Hutcherson
“Flowers and Plants” by Peter Latham
“The Apple” and “The Grape” by G.W. Henry