Deep Brar just loves working in the orchard. His father Harbhajan, who goes by the name Dave, emigrated from India, and worked hard in the sawmill industry, before he moved his family to Summerland, bought some land and started Brarstar Orchards.
Brar worked with his dad in the orchards in the summers even after he graduated from high school. He went to Simon Fraser University and got his Bachelor of Arts in the biomedical field. When he came home, he realized how much he missed working on his family orchard and decided to become an orchardist himself.
His parents weren’t happy. They sent him away to get a good education. But now, things are different.
“They understand now it’s what I want to do,” says Brar. “I think I’ve made them feel better by working at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in the winters.”
His father is still leaving the door open for Brar to leave if he wants. “My dad told me if I wanted to go do something for a year or so I should do it, while he’s here to help me out. But my number one goal is to be a farmer. I grew up in the orchard. It was my playground when I was growing up. Some of my best friends are from neighbouring orchards. I just love to be out there. I am my own boss.”
Brar, now 25, plans to continue to work in the orchards with his dad as the business transfers over to him.
“My dad doesn’t do this full time anymore. He likes to come out, see what’s going on, and then leave. As for me: I would like to expand a bit and go with it and see what happens. There are a lot of people getting out of the orchard business but I think if you can do a good job at it there is still good money to be made.”
Some of the upcoming changes Brar will implement include the introduction of Staccato and Centennial cherries.
“They are later varieties of cherries. Towards the end of the season the market isn’t as flooded with cherries. We have quite a few Staccato’s already and they do very well for us. We do grow peaches but mostly as a back-up crop. If something happens to the cherries, the peaches will get us through to the next year.”
Brar is also making changes to how they sell their fruit. In the past, Brarstar sold all of its fruits to the packinghouse. Now they are selling more to private buyers and looking into having their own packinghouse.
“We have the tonnage but it would cost us a million dollars to have our own packinghouse,” he pauses and continues. “We would do it for lots of the orchardists in the area, buy from them, package and ship out. The returns from private packers are 25 cents to 30 cents higher per pound than shipping it off to BC Tree Fruits.”
Until the dream of having a packinghouse of their own materializes, Brar is content to look outside the Okanagan when it comes to buyers.
“I have a couple of people I know down south and their buyers have contacted me directly. Some other private packers have told me about different buyers from around the world. I haven’t fully jumped into selling privately. This past year it was about 70 per cent private and 30 per cent BC Tree Fruits. The year before was about fifty-fifty.”
Brar believes the reason there aren’t as many young farmers around as one would hope is because of the stigma attached to farming.
‘People think you must be stupid or something. It doesn’t help that whenever you hear a story about farming it’s always someone complaining about not having enough money, or the government not helping enough. Young people are just seeing it as hard work in the sun - so what is the point.”
As negative as that may sound, Brar can’t help but counteract those thoughts with positive ones. “I think if you are around farming, and grow up in it you learn to love it. A majority of farmers are quite happy. They make good money and they enjoy what they do.”