Neal and Louisa Carter have come a long
way since they used to go swimming in the
Similkameen River after a hot day of picking
at an uncle’s orchard in Keremeos.
Today, the Summerland couple farm more
than 60 acres – and have stepped forward with
a $250,000 donation to the South Okanagan
Similkameen (SOS) Medical Foundation.
This will help provide the medical equipment
for the new Patient Care Tower at Penticton
The Carters’ generous donation follows
the recent sale of their company, Okanagan
Speciality Fruits Inc. which successfully
developed the non-browning, genetically
modified Arctic Apple. They remain on the
company’s board – Neal as CEO and Louisa
as Chief Financial Officer.
“An Arctic apple has exactly all the same
proteins of a conventional apple, other than
the fact that we’ve turned off the enzyme that
creates the browning,” he said. “It’s there, but
it’s only expressed at three or four per cent of
its normal level.”
While acknowledging their donation to
the SOS Medical Foundation is only possible
because of the sale of their company,
the Carters remain enthusiastic fruit growers.
They have lived in Summerland since
1992 when they bought a one-acre property
on Tada Avenue. Three years later they purchased
their current 21-acre apple orchard
overlooking Prairie Valley. They also grow
cherries on part of their 40 acres of leased
Neal and Louisa both grew up in
Vancouver and moved to the Similkameen
after they graduated from university got married
in 1982, just as the economic recession
hit. Neal was a bio-resource engineer, while
Louisa had a degree in forestry.
With jobs scare, the young couple opted
to live in a small cabin on Neal’s uncle’s
orchard and “live the simple life” picking
fruit. Despite their city roots, they quickly
adapted to the rural lifestyle.
“Neal told me he just thought he was a
farm boy that was born in the city,” Louisa
said with a smile.
“We had so much fun and just knew that
someplace down the road, we would like to
do this ourselves,” Neal added. “I wanted to
have our own farm, instead of always working
on other people’s farms. It’s our passion.”
Their orchard is now a family affair.
“We’ve got a son (Joel) and a nephew
(Neal Vander Helm) both working on the
farm with us, which is really fun,” Louisa
All three of their children – two boys
and a girl – graduated from Summerland
The Carters say they are delighted to be
able to give so generously to the hospital
campaign. Rather than make several smaller
donations to a number of different organizations,
they opted to make a substantial gift
“If there was a place to put a donation, it’s
certainly a good recipient because it benefits
an awful lot of people,” Neal said. “It was a
pretty simple decision on our part. We really
wanted to be part of this.”
The Carters have no plans to leave
Summerland and want to continue farming.
However, they may step back a bit and leave
the main farm operation to their son and
Janice Perrino, executive director of the
SOS Medical Foundation, has strong praise
for the Carter’s donation.
“To see the success of this family and then
watch them give back to their communities
is just incredible. They’re sharing their good
fortune by giving to the hospital that we all
use,” Perrino said.
Construction of the new Patient Care
Tower at PRH is due to start next spring and
be completed by late 2019.