Former Keremeos couple picks hospital campaign for apple company benefits

Former Keremeos couple picks hospital
campaign for apple company benefits

  • Dec. 24, 2015 1:00 p.m.

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

Regional Hospital.

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

Secondary School.

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

to PRH.

“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.

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