Arts & Culture

The Apple Boom: How Apples Shaped Kelowna’s Economy and Identity

A tree filled with lots of red and yellow apples next to a forest filled with lots of green and red leaves in Kelowna.


In Kelowna, a story as crisp as a freshly picked apple unfolds. This tale is about how the humble apple, with its juicy charm, shaped the economic and cultural landscape of the region. Kelowna's narrative is more than the fruit, but about the growth, innovation, and community spirit fostered around it.

Historical Context

The roots of Kelowna's apple story dig deep into the past, starting with Father Pandosy planting the first apple trees in 1859. This singular act sparked a transformation in the agricultural landscape of the Okanagan Valley. The first commercial orchard bloomed over three decades later, marking the start of an era that would see British Columbia develop unique apple varieties celebrated across the globe. The Summerland Research and Development Centre, established in 1914, played a pivotal role in this horticultural renaissance, breeding well-known varieties like Spartan, Sunrise, and Salish. These apples are symbols of the region's dedication to innovation and quality.

Economic Impact

The apple industry in Kelowna is a heavyweight in the agricultural sector, with an annual production exceeding 100,000 tons from over 6,700 acres. This robust industry contributes more than $410 million to the local economy each year. However, the journey has not been without its challenges. Apple growers have faced the harsh realities of production costs, market prices, and external factors like global events affecting the industry. The BC Tree Fruits Cooperative's introduction of the Apple Income Assurance Program is a statement to the resilience and adaptiveness of the industry, offering hope and stability to the orchardists.

Cultural Significance

In Kelowna, apples are more than just a crop; they're part of the city's cultural fabric. Varieties like Spartan, Salish, and Ambrosia, each with a story of its own, are a source of local pride. These apples representing the region’s commitment to quality and innovation. The apple industry has intertwined itself with Kelowna's identity, becoming a symbol of the community's bond with the land and its bounties.

Business and Innovation

The apple industry in Kelowna has spurred remarkable business ventures and innovation. Companies like SunRype have been producing apple juice since 1946, becoming a staple in households across Canada. Their commitment to quality and community initiatives exemplifies the industry's broader impact on Kelowna. On the innovation front, Farming Karma Fruit Co. represents the fusion of agriculture and tourism. Their approach to apple products, including their popular Apple Soda, showcases the creative spirit driving the industry forward.


Kelowna's apple industry is a story of agriculture heritage with a narrative of growth, community, and innovation. The industry has shaped the city's economy and forged a cultural identity that resonates with every crisp bite of an Okanagan apple. As the industry continues to evolve, it shows Kelowna's resilience and ingenuity, promising a future as bright and promising as the orchards in bloom.