West Kelowna's nutty roots are unique to the Okanagan, and due to the Gellatly family | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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West Kelowna's nutty roots are unique to the Okanagan, and due to the Gellatly family

Ferne Jean stands behind a chainsaw carving of her Uncle Jack Gellatly who tried to get more people to grow nuts in the Okanagan.
June 22, 2020 - 6:30 AM

West Kelowna's nutty history can be traced back more than 100 years, to when the Gellatly brothers put down roots.

Dave and Jack were the sons of D.E. (David Erskin) Gellatly who, in 1900 bought 350 acres of what became Gellatly Flats where they farmed mostly ground crops, granddaughter Ferne Jean told iNFOnews.ca.

“The boys were sick and tired of chasing butterflies to keep them off the cauliflower and all the rest of it so they decided they would do something different and try nuts and that’s how they started experimenting with nuts,” Jean said.

Jack Gellatly clearing his land in 1905 so he could plant nut trees.
Jack Gellatly clearing his land in 1905 so he could plant nut trees.
Image Credit: SubmittedFerne Jean

Grandfather Gellatly gave each of the boys 10 acres of land bordering the sandy shores of Okanagan Lake. Dave’s land was later sold. Part of it is now occupied by the Cove Resort while Jack’s land was bought in 1999 by the regional district and officially opened in 2005 as the Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park.

A view of the Gellatly Nut Farm today.
A view of the Gellatly Nut Farm today.

“Uncle Jack, Jack Gellatly,  he was really the scientist, the experimenter,” Jean said. “He went to the States and worked on nut farms down there to learn how they did it and he would send seedlings back to his brother, here on the flats, to plant.”

Jack was born in 1883 and continued working with nut trees almost up until his death in 1969.

“He continued to experiment with nut stock to try to get hardiness into the nuts,” Jean said. “He was trying to get a better nut with trees that were hardy for this area. That’s what he spent his life doing, experimenting with nuts.”

Gramma Eliza Ure Gellatly before there were nut trees.
Gramma Eliza Ure Gellatly before there were nut trees.
Image Credit: Submitted/Ferne Jean

Since nut trees are not native to the Okanagan, it was a challenge to breed varieties that could survive the harsh Canadian winters.

He not only collected seedlings from all over the world to work with, but he sold seedlings all over the world in turn.

Image Credit: Submitted/Ferne Jean

Jack encouraged others in the Okanagan to join him in growing nuts.

“That was his way of advertising,” Jean said.

“He would just travel around and talk to people and try to sell his trees. He had a big van set up with pictures of his nuts in little windows in the side of his van. He would wire ahead that he was coming to town to certain stores. People would crowd around and they would listen to him talk about growing nut trees for beauty, shade and profit.”

Jack Gellatly in front with family members with his nut van in back depicting his slogan, Beauty, Shade and Profit.
Jack Gellatly in front with family members with his nut van in back depicting his slogan, Beauty, Shade and Profit.
Image Credit: Submitted/Ferne Jean

The profit part of his slogan never took off, although most of the older nut trees in the region likely came from Gellatly stock.

Jack Gellatly grew a wide range of nuts, from walnuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts to butternut and heartnut. There is even one tree marked as a ‘Dunoka’ buartnut, a cross between a butternut and Japanese heartnut.

Heartnut trees in Gellatly Nut Farm.
Heartnut trees in Gellatly Nut Farm.

Since walnut trees can live for 400 years they will be around for some years to come and slowly be replaced by new seedlings now being grown and shielded from deer and squirrels.

At 93 years old, Jean is still active with the Gellatly Nut Farm Society and will be out this fall helping to sell this year’s harvest.

Ferne Jean loved spending summers in the cabin on Uncle Jack's nut farm. The table top on the picnic table was once the loading ramp for the SS Sicmous. Horses kicked it into Okanagan Lake and it eventually floated up onto Jack's beach.
Ferne Jean loved spending summers in the cabin on Uncle Jack's nut farm. The table top on the picnic table was once the loading ramp for the SS Sicmous. Horses kicked it into Okanagan Lake and it eventually floated up onto Jack's beach.
Image Credit: Submitted/Ferne Jean

Nut sales begin in September and continue into the fall until all the nuts are sold.

For information and directions, go here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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