When Derek Lutz gave up his teaching career in Alberta to operate an orchard in Summerland, it was a natural fit.
The six-hectare orchard, in the Canyon View area, is the farm where he grew up.
“It wasn’t a hard transition to come back to it at all,” he said.
His parents began farming in Summerland 40 years ago, but he began working the orchard eight years ago, in 2012.
However, he and his brother had been involved with Okanagan fruit before he returned to the farm.
While he was in Alberta, he and his brother worked at farmers markets, selling fruit from the orchard.
Today, they continue to sell to Alberta. Derek Lutz grows the fruit while his brother, brother in law and others are in charge of selling it.
Lutz also operates Granny’s Fruit Stand in Summerland.
And during the winter, he is also able to work as a substitute teacher when needed.
The orchard grows a variety of tree fruits including cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, apples and pears, as well as table grapes and wine grapes, tomatoes and melons.
“You get to see the fruits of your labours,” he said. “There’s pride and accomplishment in that.”
Over the years, the orchard has gone through changes, as some varieties have been changed or replanted over the years.
Last year, he planted peaches and for next year, he plans to plant early variety cherries.
Over the years, he has seen changes in various fruit varieties, as well as some fad fruits, such as pluots, which are a cross between a plum and an apricot.
In addition, agriculture in Summerland and the rest of the Okanagan Valley has been changing as new varieties are grown and as the wine industry continues to expand.
While Lutz is growing some wine grapes on his property, he said he does not plan to move away from tree fruit farming.
The work is demanding and at times unpredictable.
For instance, this year, he and others hired helicopters to blow the water from cherry trees following late spring rains.
“There’s always something different every year in farming,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s never boring.”
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