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West Kelowna lumber mill is adding 24 acres of vineyards to its Okanagan hillside

New vines are starting to plant their roots at Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd.
New vines are starting to plant their roots at Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

Drivers passing by Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd. in West Kelowna might notice some new vineyards growing on the nearby hills, as the business will soon be growing grapes for commercial harvest.

Of all the ways for a lumber mill to expand its business model – why grapes?

“It really came down to use of the land,“ Craig Galloway said. He's a millworker who is heading the vineyard project.

“We were thinking about how to get the most benefit out of it for the community. And we think these rows of vineyards are able to beautify the landscape. And it’s a good use of land compared to grassland that was here before.”

Also the area is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, he said.

READ MORE: New cycling trail will roll through vineyards of West Kelowna

The sawmill already owned many assets that are valuable for the construction of the vineyards.

“Throughout development, the resources we had on hand have paid dividends for us,” Galloway said. “And our stringent corporate safety policies transferred are being applied to the vineyard as well.”

Staffers working on the vineyards will be employees of Gorman’s.

Galloway, who’s a professional millwright, is a getting lots of lessons in agriculture as he goes about preparing the site.

“Farmers hours really are sunrise to sunset,” he said. “On a personal level, I’m really happy my kids will grow up in a farming environment.”

READ MORE: South Okanagan winery not bottling 2021 vintage due to wildfire smoke contamination

Galloway and his family ended up getting more involved than he initially planned, according to communications coordinator Nicole Arkle.

“We did face several challenges as many have over the last several years with supply chain, labour market, inflation, but have been able to overcome that with members of the Gorman family spending their days planting and preparing the land for new vines,” she said in an email.

“Additionally we did struggle with the hillside being a place with below ground rocks, which will be excellent for growing, however did cause some difficulties with getting posts in and moving earth to create better slopes. This is common throughout the valley, but has caused us to change the design and lead in the irrigation plans."

The project will cover approximately 28 acres, 24 of which will be planted. There will be 47,000 vines producing eight varietals of European strains that were cloned in California.

Grapes grown will be organic, the first harvest is anticipated to be in 2024, and the team is hoping operations will eventually become carbon negative. One effort to reduce their environmental footprint will involve the use of the mineral sourced from St. Onge, Quebec called Wollastonite, which is a carbon sequester.

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