There is, Lew and Chuck Truscott admit, confusion about the exact date when their family began farming in the Creston Valley. It wasn’t later than 1912, though.
George Truscott, grandfather of Lew and Chuck, came to Creston from England, but before spending some years farming in Saskatchewan. The lure? A brochure that promoted opportunity in British Columbia. George died shortly after his arrival in the Creston Valley, but he was soon followed west by two of his four sons, William J. (Bill) and Percy. The brothers farmed together until Bill purchased a parcel adjacent to the original farm, which Percy kept.
Lew and Chuck were born, along with two other brothers, to Bill and his wife, Eleanor. Lew came along in 1925 and Chuck followed eight years later. Lew devoted his life to farming while his brothers moved onto other careers in other locations. His connection to farming was broken only by a stint in the Navy that spanned the Second World War. With help from the department of Veterans Affairs Canada’s resettlement program, he purchased an orchard adjacent to his father’s, and he worked on both parcels. He married Iva Watt, a nurse, in 1955, and their children, Bill and Susan, arrived in the next couple of years.
Lew worked for the department of agriculture in the fruit inspection division for 15 years, from 1947-1962, then left to start a honey and pollination business — he had earned his bee masters certificate in 1958. A honey extracting plant and fruit stand were built on Highway 3 and, in 1964, it became Truscott’s Honey Farm.
In a story published in the Advance two years ago, Bill reminisced about the honey plant.
The raw product would be brought to the honey farm, then prepared for sale. The plant was on the top floor, allowing for liquid honey to be gravity fed to customers waiting below, often with their own containers. The huge vat of honey would be kept liquid with a heat coil.
“I remember the trouble I got into once when I left a tap open down below and a thousand pounds of honey ran out onto the floor,” he laughed.
Following a pattern set by their father and uncle, Lew and Chuck became partners in 1975, when Chuck moved back to Creston from Prince George. He purchased an orchard and a share in the honey farm. Two years later, Chuck sold his orchard and bought out Lew’s share of the honey farm. Lew, in turn, bought an orchard on Erickson Road, where he lives to this day. Chuck, with his wife Elaine, would operate the fruit stand until 1997. He later began a strawberry farm in Wynndel and for years helped in the management of Bill’s cherry packing plant.
Lew’s son, Bill, continued the family tradition of naval service and joined the Canadian Armed Forces, from which he was discharged in 1979. He then joined Lew in fruit marketing and strawberry production. In 1983, Bill married Barbara Jenkins and the couple went on to have four daughters.
The Lew Truscott family reunion was completed in Erickson in 1996 when Susan and her husband, Gary Snow, moved from Kalispell, Mont., with their son, Micah. Susan and Gary now operate an orchard immediately adjacent to the one owned by Lew and Iva. In recent years, they have expanded into the juice business, establishing Tabletree, which produces high quality black cherry and plum juices, as well as other proudcts.
Lew continued his long association with beekeeping. He served as president of the BC Honey Producers from 1957-1977 and has held affiliations with the Canadian Beekeepers Council (also serving as president), the Creston Valley Fall Fair, Creston Valley Blossom Festival, the school board, Creston Co-op Packers and Creston Valley Co-oper-ative Association. He also served on the board of BC Tree Fruits and Sun Rype.
In 1992, Lew and Bill were at the forefront of the move to plant late maturing cherry trees like Lapins and Sweethearts. That move started a trend that saw the removal of thousands of apple trees in Erickson as property owners switched to cherry production.
Bill has spent his entire post-Navy life in the fruit industry. In recent years, he was instrumental in establishing a cherry packing plant in Erickson, which until last year operated as BFC Growers.
Two years ago, Bill and Barb purchased Under the Apple Tree fruit stand, the very operation that his Uncle Chuck had sold 15 years ago. A new business sign, Truscott Farms, reestablished the familiar family name to Highway 3 in Erickson. Last year, Bill folded the cherry packing plant and sold a large chunk of his orchard holdings. The same man who saw an opportunity in late harvest cherries also saw that the short-lived “golden age” was coming to an end. A strong Canadian dollar had eroded the profitability of the export market and competition from around the world was increasing. Bill and Barb have become mixed growers, raising everything from apples, peaches, pears, prunes, apricots, grapes and cherries to broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, cauliflower and herbs.
Bill says the work is more varied and the labour is harder than the cherry business, but he enjoys the interaction with customers when he is in the fruitstand.
“Everyone has a story and it’s amazing to hear them,” he said last week.
No doubt Truscott Farms customers, many of whom came to the Creston Valley with the parents to load up the family station wagon with fresh produce, are equally fascinated with the Truscott family story.