Denise and Richard MacDonald are one of about 25 Aurora Golden Gala growers in the Summerland area. They produce 200,000 pounds of apples a year made up of five varieties: Aurora Golden Gala, Jonagold, Gala, Spartan and Ambrosia. The majority of their fruit is sold through the Okanagan Tree Fruit Company, one of the few large cooperatives left in the Okanagan Valley. However, about 500 boxes of their highly-valued eating apples, Aurora Golden Galas, are sold farmgate style as they are too delicate to be handled in a large scale sorting facility.
After graduating from UBC with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Richard became a cherry breeding technician at the Summerland Research Centre. He worked for a number of scientists who developed well known varieties such as Sunrise, Creston, and Aurora Golden Gala apples as well as the Sweetheart and Staccato cherries. Richard was also involved in selecting the new Salish apple, which was released to the market in October 2011.
Denise was raised in Burnaby, and after finishing an agriculture course at BCIT, she moved to Summerland to begin her agriculture career. She planned to make her way north, but after landing a job at the Research Centre – well, the rest is history (or herstory depending on who is telling it.)
When asked to compare their lifestyle with that of Peter Mayle’s in his Year in Provence, Denise laughs and says: “Yup, we’re livin’ the dream.” Last week alone, Denise made two 600 kilometer trips to deliver apples to the high-end retailers in the Lower Mainland.