About Orchards & Packing Houses

Orchards & Packing Houses​

Westbank has an extensive and rich history of fruit growing and packaging. David and Eliza Gellatly emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1883. They briefly attempted farming in Ontario but moved to the Okanagan in search of fairer weather. The Gellatly's eventually purchased a property during the summer of 1900[1]. The first apple trees were planted in 1903, whereas other small fruits and vegetables had been planted as soon as the land was ready. Originally named G.E Gellatly and sons, theirs was the first business in the area[2]. The commercial farm supplied fruits and vegetables to workers and miners in the Kootenays and the Calgary market.

In 1905, a greenhouse was built on the property, which was the largest in the interior Okanagan. The edifice helped increase Gellatly's production of over 350 acres on their farm and another 350 at Boucherie[3]. The farm's operation grew to have barns, a dock, and a packinghouse while employing people from the community[4]. However, in 1920 a fire destroyed the dock, the packing house, box making plant, and barns. Unfortunately, David Gellatly had not renewed the businesses' fire insurance, which had expired three days earlier, and thus this effectively ruined the company. After his death, his two sons David Jr. and Jack started a nut farm; many of those original trees still stand in Gellatly Heritage Park.

 As orchards and the fruit industry industry expanded, so did parallel and complementary facilities such as packinghouses. Thomas Benjamin Reece immigrated to Scotia, Manitoba, from Herefordshire. Later in 1921, Mr. Reece and his family moved to Westbank, where he purchased the former Hurlburt home and five-acre orchard where the Westridge Mall is located today[5]. Soon, Mr. Reece renovated the property, where the family began packing fruit in the corner shed. In 1934, Mr. Reece purchased another property, which became the location of the Westbank Orchard LTD. The business grew from a modest operation and eventually added new technology such as a cold storage facility and controlled atmosphere area[6]. As more modern equipment was added, the packinghouse was able to increase its production to up to 210 bins in a 71⁄2-hour shift or the equivalent of 5000 apple boxes of fruit[7]!

In 1947, Mr. Reece handed the operations to his sons, who continued to modernize the business. In 2002, the packinghouse was leased to another company and kept the business operating until 2006. From the 2006 to 2007 season, the company sent the fruit to Kelowna, and the Westbank Packing house stopped its operations[8]. Sadly, in 2007 a fire engulfed the building house and effectively destroyed the last packinghouse in Westbank.

[1] A little bit of Okanagan History [2] Gellatly #1, Westside Weekly, June 25, 2006 [3] Gellatly #1, Westside Weekly, June 25, 2006 [4] Gellatly #1, Westside Weekly, June 25, 2006 [5] A little bit of Okanagan history, p.190 [6] http://www.westbank.biz/images/milton.pdf [7] http://www.westbank.biz/images/milton.pdf [8] http://www.westbank.biz/images/milton.pdf