Início / Recursos / Recortes de imprensa / 2009
Valley feels like home for Portuguese
Canada’s Portuguese community has found a home in the Okanagan Valley.

In chapter The Portuguese Orchardists in the Okanagan Valley, of the book The Portuguese in Canada: Diasporic Challenges and Adjustment one Portuguese immigrant is quoted saying that the Okanagan Valley is Algarve, Portugal to him. That chapter in the book lets readers in as to why Portuguese people chose the Okanagan Valley as a place to settle in 1955 and how they became successful in the agricultural industry.

With information spread throughout the chapter that was gathered from a survey, one statistic indicated that 30 respondents (50.8 per cent) said a reason they chose the Okanagan is because it reminded them of Portugal.

The respondent also said, "when I decided to stay here my first goal was to work for myself and to own land that I could one day pass to my children."

"This is in the Portuguese blood to own land and housing," said University of British Columbia-Okanagan associate professor of geography Carlos Teixeira, who co-edited the chapter The Portuguese Orchardists in the Okanagan Valley. Teixeira began conducting interviews for the chapter in 2004 and said the purpose of publishing the book, which was compiled by several writers, is to expose Portuguese people and their contributions. Teixeira, who moved to Canada in 1978 from the Azores, describes them as a silent and invisible group.

Among the immigrants Teixeira interviewed was the family of Joe Fernandes, who over time became an icon in the Portuguese community.

"My father came to Canada in 1953 to work in Quebec and Ontario and in 1955 he crossed Canada by train and found work in Kitimat," said Fernandes' daughter Laura Garcia. "Then he moved to Osoyoos, where in 1959 he bought his first orchard - seven acres for $7,000. He became known across Canada and brought many tourists and attention to Osoyoos."

This was a trend that continued as the Portuguese bought orchards in the early ‘60s.

"Hey watch out, these guys are good. These guys work hard, these guys want to be part of this mosaic," said Teixeira. "They want to be part of this country, which is a country of immigrants."

It was important to the UBC-O professor to paint a picture of Portuguese people because he became fascinated with talking to them and learning about their spirit of sacrifice to succeed in Penticton, Osoyoos and Oliver.

"This was one of the most interesting experiences I've had as a scholar," said Teixeira, who in 2005 received Portugal's highest civilian honour - the Ordem do Infante D. Henrique, the Portuguese government's equivalent to the Order of Canada. "I had a chance to see them working, a chance to touch the fruits. They were proud of telling me their successes."

The Portuguese Orchardists in the Okanagan Valley reveals early that the Portuguese were viewed as a mixed blessing. There were also occasional outbursts of resentment as Portuguese spoke their mother language on street corners. This feeling disappeared as the Portuguese built strong roots and earned respect. The chapter also reveals who the Portuguese counted on for support and how heavily relied upon children were as translators.

"I think Canadians need to read my chapter," said Teixeira, who is pleased with how it turned out and received positive response from Portuguese communities in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. "After 50 years, my feeling is that Canadians don't know too much about the Portuguese. I think my chapter can play a very important role. They will appreciate more of what the Portuguese have done."

The following is the entire chapter published by the University of Toronto Press with permission of Teixeira.

The Portuguese in British Columbia: The Orchardists of the Okanagan Valley


In the latter half of the twentieth century, Canadian society was rendered culturally and racially heterogeneous by successive waves of immigration; first primarily from Western European countries, such as Portugal, and later from a more diverse range of source countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. One of the defining features of this immigration was its "urban" character, with most immigrants choosing to settle in the major urban centres of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (Murdie and Teixeira, 2006). The Portuguese group has been representative of this process, with most Portuguese immigrants having settled in the immigrant reception areas of urban Canada where they formed institutionally complete ethnic neighbourhoods - "Little Portugals" - with an appreciable number of diverse social and economic organizations and an established business structure.

This being said, it should be acknowledged that important numbers of Portuguese immigrants arrived and settled in rural Canada as well. This settlement choice is not surprising, as Portugal has traditionally been an agricultural-based economy, with most Portuguese immigrants to Canada coming originally from rural areas of Portugal (Anderson and Higgs, 1976). In fact, it was as a result of the stagnation of Portugal's agricultural economy in the 1950s that the first Portuguese came to Canada, when the Portuguese government encouraged emigration as a solution to the country's unemployment (Anderson and Higgs, 1976; Teixeira and Da Rosa, 2000). Through "chain-migration" entire Portuguese families arrived in Canada, with the province of British Columbia in particular coming to host the third most important concentration of Portuguese settlement in the country, after Ontario and Quebec (see Chapter 1).

The Portuguese immigrants who settled in British Columbia were representative of immigrants to Canada in general with regard to their preference for urban settlement. Eventually, more than three-quarters of the province's Portuguese population settled in major urban areas. It is as a consequence of this urban orientation that most studies of the Portuguese group in Canada have focused on its urban settlement, with a notable lack of research dealing with the important Portuguese presence and business activities in rural Canada (see, Teixeira, 2000-2002; Joy, 1989, 1977; Munzer, 1981). In this context, it may be said that studies of the Portuguese presence in rural Canada have to date been "off-radar" for Canadian scholars.

Immigration has been widely recognized as a primary engine of economic, social and cultural change for Canada. Indeed, both scholars and policy makers have acknowledged the positive impact that immigration has upon the economic growth and development of Canadian cities (Hiebert, 2000; Teixeira, Lo and Truelove, 2007). Entrepreneurship is a field of economic activity that has long been characteristic of many immigrant groups, as a number of factors and barriers contributed to their entering the self-employed sector of the economy. This being said, surprisingly little scholarly research has been undertaken with regard to immigrants' entrepreneurial experiences in rural Canada (see, Teixeira, 2001; Barrett, Jones and McEvoy, 1996).

With respect to the Portuguese entrepreneurs of rural British Columbia, it is necessary to pay particular attention to the agricultural industry of the Okanagan Valley. As one observer notes: "Although part of the Canadian government's immigration programme was intended to bring Portuguese farmers to Canada in the 1950s, it was only in the Okanagan Valley that this programme was successful" (Korosci, 2000, p. 155). Due to a shortage of farm workers in the Okanagan Valley in the 1950s, the first Portuguese immigrants came to the region to work as fruit pickers. Soon however, to the surprise of many native-born Canadians, the Portuguese channelled their savings into developing their own businesses in the region, and in a relatively short period of time they became owners of their own orchards (Joy, 1989).

It is in this context that this essay examines the entrepreneurial behaviour and experiences of Portuguese immigrants in the agricultural sector of the Okanagan Valley economies, with a particular focus on the areas of Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos. The development and operation of these Portuguese immigrant entrepreneur businesses are explored, with attention paid to not only the history but also the future of the Portuguese entrepreneurs in the Okanagan Valley's orchard industry.


This study relies on information collected in two phases. In Phase One (May 2004), I conducted 32 informal interviews - not only with "key" leaders of the Portuguese communities of Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos, but also with Portuguese orchardists - in order to obtain a better understanding of the way the region's Portuguese entrepreneurs operate their businesses, as well as the major challenges they face in the market today. I also had the opportunity to visit the three main Portuguese ethnocultural organizations of the study communities (e.g., the Luso-Portuguese Canadian Multicultural Society of Penticton, the Okanagan Portuguese Club of Oliver, and the Portuguese Canadian Cultural Society of Osoyoos). The information collected from these informal interviews played a very important role in allowing me to build a questionnaire survey that was administered to Portuguese orchardists in the following year.

Phase Two of the data collection relied on a questionnaire survey that was administered in the months of May/June (2005) in the main study areas - Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos. With the help of "key" leaders from the study communities, all Portuguese owners of orchards in the areas were identified and questionnaires were delivered by the author of this research with the help of the community leaders. The three local Portuguese ethnocultural organizations and the two main local fruit co-ops (e.g., Sun Fresh Co-op and Okanagan Similkameen Co-op Grocers Association) were also contacted by the author of this research and were asked for their cooperation in the promotion of the study near to their Portuguese members. A total of 85 questionnaire were distributed (18 in Penticton, 28 in Oliver and 35 in Osoyoos), of which approximately two thirds (59) of the questionnaires (13 from Penticton, 21 from Oliver and 25 from Osoyoos) were returned by mail or were collected by the author of this research.

The questionnaire had a total of 58 questions and consisted of closed and open-ended questions within the following four broad categories: (1) respondent's background; (2) business establishment - history and employment; (3) community resources in starting and operating the current business; and (4) business activities/practices and the market.

From Rural Portugal to the Rural Okanagan Valley

Acute labour shortages in the agricultural sector, and particularly the tree fruit industry, in the Okanagan Valley in the 1950s prompted the Canadian government to encourage labourers from southern Europe to migrate to the Valley. The first Portuguese immigrants arrived in 1955. On their arrival in the Valley, Joy (1989, pp. 48, 49) reminds us that at that time: "[S]erious doubts were raised as to the assimilation of the Portuguese in Canada...In the Okanagan, the coming of the Portuguese was viewed as a mixed blessing. While the farmers in the district were very glad to have the reliable help, non-farmers were concerned about the numbers of unskilled labourers and their relatives moving into small settlements [Penticton, Naramata, Oliver and Osoyoos]....[also]...there were occasional outbursts of resentment from locals when the Portuguese formed little groups on the street corners and spoke in their mother tongue." However, while there may have been some unease upon the Portuguese immigrants' initial arrival in the Valley, it should be emphasized that sources indicate there "was a concerted effort by the locals to enable the Portuguese and other newcomers in the area [Oliver] to settle" (Joy, 1989, p. 49).

In contrast to Portuguese immigrants who settled in Canada's major urban areas (e.g., Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) where they formed geographically well- delimited and compact ethnic neighbourhoods ("Little Portugals"), the lifestyles and settlement patterns adopted by the Portuguese immigrants who chose the Valley as their home did not result in any formation of Portuguese neighbourhoods. As Joy (1989, p. 154-156) explains: "They [Portuguese] were scattered all around the town [Oliver and Osoyoos]. . . . Although they were newcomers, in many ways distinct in terms of clothing, food, and language, they were first considered as good and trustworthy workers, then small orchard owners, subsequently large orchard owners, and finally good citizens...their commitment to the local-residential unit was the main reasons they were accepted in the community....By working on and subsequently buying the land, they avoided the formation of ethnic neighbourhoods. . . . [and] demonstrated commitment to the local unit rather than to their ethnic group. Being a member of the ‘community' meant subordinating ethnic or cultural loyalty to the local-residential unit." This settlement strategy adopted by Portuguese immigrants in the Valley is particularly interesting for how it differs from the strategies adopted by Portuguese in urban Canada.

The presence of Portuguese immigrants in the Okanagan Valley dates to the mid-1950s, with the first group of less than 30 immigrants arriving in 1955 with their numbers gradually increasing over time. According to the 2001 Canadian Census, about 800 people in the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District declared Portuguese as their mother tongue. Within this large area, the majority are concentrated in Penticton (175), Oliver (120) and Osoyoos (130) (Statistics Canada, 2001). However, according to "key" Portuguese informants, the number of Portuguese of first generation and their descendants (born in Canada) in the region may more accurately be numbered as high as 1,500. It is interesting to note that in these three areas the Portuguese language ranked high as one of the most spoken languages (top five single mother tongue) - in fifth place in Penticton (4%) and in third place in both Oliver (14%) and Osoyoos (14%) (British Columbia Statistics, 2001).

The 59 respondents from Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos form a homogeneous cultural group. All respondents were of the same ethnic background and same mother tongue. With the exception of two respondents, all of the others (96.6%) were first generation immigrants (born in Portugal). The majority (70.2%) of these respondents were born in Mainland Portugal, with 26.3% from the Azores Islands and the remaining from the island of Madeira (3.5%). In addition, most of these respondents also came from the rural regions of Portugal (e.g., the northern parts of the country, and particularly from Beira Baixa,) and from the islands of S. Miguel and Terceira (Archipelago of Azores). More than two-thirds of these immigrants arrived in Canada during the time periods 1955-1959 (33.9%) and 1960-1969 (35.7%). Those who arrived in the 1950s (1955-1959) can be considered ‘pioneers" of the Portuguese immigration to the Okanagan Valley. Mr. Costa is one of these pioneers whom we interviewed. He reflects upon his - and the Portuguese community's - beginnings in the valley:

"I arrived in Halifax from Portugal April 2, 1955. I took the train and I arrived in Kelowna a few days later - April 7. With other eleven Portuguese we were distributed in different places in the Valley to work in the orchards and/or farms. Myself and Alfredo Farinha we went to Oliver while the others - Joao Chique (Vernon), Antonio da Costa and Antonio Marques (Kelowna), "Alentejano" [nickname] (Penticton), Jose Eugenio, Joao Meange and "Algarvio" (nickname) (Osoyoos), Jose Antunes, "Sofredo" and "Alentejano" [nicknames] (Keremeos) - were dispersed along the Valley...but we kept in touch."

About his initial working experience in the Valley, Mr. Costa observes:

"In my case I went first to a vegetable farm in Oliver where I worked for only one month at 5 cents an hour. I wanted more money and I went to an orchard for better the time I got $300 a month. That I know at the end of 1955 we had no more than 20 to 30 Portuguese men working in the orchards of the Okanagan Valley Most were originally from the mainland Portugal...we knew each other very well. In 1956 I went to Portugal to marry and my wife joined me in 1959. I bought my own orchard in 1962. At the time, I was one of the first Portuguese to own an orchard here [Oliver] I am retired but I still own three other orchards...I rented them....[but] I keep the orchards hoping that my two sons [professionals living outside the Valley- Calgary and Vancouver] will one day return to live here...they like a lot the lifestyle of the valley...."

Another successful Portuguese pioneer in the orchard business was Mr. Joe Fernandes, who became the first Portuguese immigrant to buy an orchard in Osoyoos in 1959. He initially operated the orchard with the assistance of his wife, Maria, and their seven children. Mr. Fernandes became one of the most well- known Portuguese in the South Okanagan, and an icon in the Portuguese community of Osoyoos, in large part for his successful entrepreneurial "adventures" outside the orchard business. As his daughter, Laura Garcia, explains:

"My father came to Canada in 1953 to work in Quebec and Ontario and in 1955 he crossed Canada by train and found work in Kitimat. Then he moved to Osoyoos where in 1959 he bought his first orchard, a seven acres orchard for $7,000...He was the first Portuguese to buy an orchard in Osoyoos....and in 1960 our family left Madeira to join him here. He farmed for many years growing fruit and vegetables and established a very successful fruit selling businesses.... Over the years the banana plants multiplied rapidly....he had over 200 banana plants plus other plants including sugar cane, fig tree and many house plants...he tried growing many varieties of banana trees.... He became known across Canada and brought many tourists and attention to Osoyoos....for example in one newspaper from Vancouver (Vancouver Sun, September, 1992) we could read: ‘Osoyoos - His Own Banana Republic: Immigrant Fruit-stand Farmer Creates a Little Bit of Portugal in Middle of British Columbia'....All this made my father very proud of his achievements... Osoyoos became known as the ‘Banana Belt of Canada'...although he proved these tropical plants can be grown anywhere under a controlled atmosphere, financially it was not a profitable business, due to the cold Osoyoos winters....He kept his banana farm going for many years until his death in 1993. He was then 73...the family closed the banana farm one year later."

The success of these Portuguese pioneers was repeated by later Portuguese immigrants in the south of the Okanagan Valley. In 1987 it was reported that "of the 420 commercial orchards in the Oliver area almost 25 percent are owned by Portuguese Canadians; of the 223 Osoyoos commercial orchardists 44 percent are of Portuguese Canadians." (Koroscil, 2000, p. 161). This proportion of Portuguese ownership of the industry in the region is all the more remarkable when we consider the comparative youth of this community. This being said, however, it is important to note that almost two decades later, in 2005, the number of Portuguese- owned orchards decreased considerably, to only 28 orchards in Oliver and 35 in Osoyoos. Clearly, the role of the Portuguese group in this industry seems to be in transition.

Like their counterparts in the rest of Canada the large majority of Portuguese emigrated to Canada for economic reasons. Forty-three respondents (72.9%) indicated that they came to join members of their families already established in the country/Okanagan Valley, and 13 respondents (22.0%) indicated that they came with a "labour contract" to work in the agriculture/orchards. Thus, the well-known factor of "sponsorship"/"family reunification" characterizes the immigration of Portuguese to the study areas. We may thus conclude that the choice of the Valley as their final destination to live and work was a "family affair" - the choice being largely predetermined well in advance of migration by members of the nuclear and/or the extended family already established in the region. Not surprisingly, for many Portuguese immigrants, members of the family established in the Valley played a determining role in finding the first residence and the first job upon arrival in Canada, which happened - most of the time - to be in the fruit industry.

It is interesting to note that out of the 59 respondents, 32 of them (52.2%) declared that when they came to Canada and to the Valley it was with the idea of only staying temporarily. The main goal was to make some money and better their lives and then return back to Portugal. This being said, we are confronted by the fact that they never did leave!

In 2005, when the questionnaire surveys were administered, only two respondents (3.4%) indicated that they are planning one day to return to Portugal, with one of them planning to spend 50% of his retirement time in Portugal and 50% of it in the Valley. Two other respondents (3.4%) also indicated that they may retire outside of the study areas, with a preference for Vancouver, Victoria and/or Kelowna; cities where these immigrants have their children living and/or because of accessibility to better health care/hospitals. These numbers are revealing of the fact that, whatever their original intent, this group of Portuguese immigrants have come to stay in the Valley. At the time of the survey, the average Portuguese respondent was 60 years of age and thus close to retirement, so their plans can be said to have matured over time.

With regard to their educational levels, more than two thirds (69.5%) of the respondents have completed only the primary level (four years of education in Portugal). It is therefore not surprising that some of these immigrants still face today major problems in communicating in English. It is interesting to note, however, that this group of immigrants had no experience with business when in Portugal. With the exception of five respondents (8.5%), all of the others (91.5%) were not in business or self-employed in Portugal before moving to Canada.

We may speculate that, given this lack of a business background, the interest in entrepreneurship among this group may be due in part to the orchard industry being connected to the land. Indeed, almost from their time of arrival, the purchase of their own orchard land in the Okanagan Valley became almost an obsession for this hard working group of immigrants. This may be a rural manifestation of a phenomenon noted in urban centres such as Toronto, where the Portuguese group has displayed a remarkably high level of land/home ownership; with many Portuguese residences in "Little Portugal" featuring back gardens with plants and vegetables. Clearly, even in Canada's big cities, the rural "roots" of Portuguese immigrants are apparent. For members of the group living today in the Okanagan Valley - given that respondents are owners of their own orchard land - it is evident that land ownership has not only important economic, but also symbolic significance, for them as the attainment of their "Canadian dream".

Survey Results

Going Into Business: The Orchard Industry in the Okanagan Valley

For the majority of our respondents (94.9%) the orchard they owned at the time of the survey represented their first entrepreneurial experience on Canadian soil. However, more than two thirds of those entrepreneurs (74.6%) have been in the business for more than 20 years, which indicates that they are an "established" group of businessmen in the Valley. As noted by Joy (1989, p. 153, 154) the Portuguese "[H]ad a step-like progression from the position of farm workers to medium-sized farm owners. Each progressive stage was characterized by their special efforts to improve and enhance their lifestyle. Farming was a lucrative occupation for them because unlike other framers, they did not hire any outside labour: it was a family concern. Since they had bought land when it was not expensive, they made a profitable investment. Each stage in this process of mobility was further highlighted by status makers."

This being said, we are faced with the question of why in the first place were these Portuguese immigrants attracted to self-employment in the orchard industry? Based on the questionnaires survey administered to Portuguese orchardists in Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos, the most important reasons for going into business was a strong desire to work for themselves - be their own boss/control of their destiny - followed by the wish/strong desire to own a piece of land in their new country of Canada. Overall, forty two (42) respondents (71.2%) made reference to these two main reasons to go into the fruit tree industry. Another 18 respondents (31.0%) cited having family members or being themselves already involved in agriculture in Portugal. Agriculture for them represents what they termed a "family tradition" as they moved from being farm workers in Portugal to being farm workers in the Valley, where they ultimately moved towards ownership of their own orchard (Table 1). As some respondents noted:

"I was a farmer in Portugal... [and]... I did not speak English when I arrived. It was the best of two worlds - to be self-employed and to do something I like - working the land."

"I arrived in 1957...and in the mid 1960s most of my Portuguese friends were buying orchards in Oliver and Osoyoos. I was poor in Portugal but my dream was to own my own piece of land here. It was not easy at the time and I had to rely on a good friend [Portuguese] to lend me money. After more than three decades in this business I would say it was worthwhile the sacrifices..."

"The Okanagan Valley is like Algarve in Portugal...when I decided to stay [permanently] here my first goal was to work to myself and to own land that I could one day pass to my children."

Overall, it can be concluded that for this group of Portuguese immigrant entrepreneurs, being a fruit tree grower in the Valley was a natural extension of their family traditions and culture in Portugal before immigrating to Canada. Land ownership and success in business became important signifiers of status for this group. This impetus was so strong that, as Munzer (1981, p.98) observes, it led to "economic competition, status rivalry and jealousy" among some Portuguese orchardists in the Valley.

By remodelling/improving their houses and buying orchards with their savings the Portuguese valorized the land and were, in consequence, viewed favourably by other Canadians. With regard to the importance of this fact for the group's successful settlement in the Valley, Joy (1989, p. 142) notes: "They earned the respect in the eyes of their employers. They were not seen as renters because they were concerned with property value, living conditions, and environment...The idea of converting a cabin into a home [by adding better plumbing and electricity] was a significant step...In short, self-help and family cooperation made it possible for these farmers not only to buy land but also to make economically feasible. Further in a decade the value of the land had doubled."

When respondents were asked why did they choose the South of the Okanagan Valley, and particularly Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos, to establish themselves, 31 respondents (52.5%) indicated that the presence of family members, and Portuguese friends already established in this region of British Columbia played a determining role in their choice of where to buy land and start a new business. Another 30 respondents (50.8%) also indicated the good location of the area - particularly the beauty and the weather conditions, which reminded them of Portugal, as well as the quality of the land (Table 2). With regard to the price of land ownership, some respondents cited as a reason for their location being the good prices that they paid for their land/orchard. Considering that the majority of Portuguese orchardists bought their orchards more than three decades ago or so (mainly in the 1960s and 1970s), we can speculate that for most of these entrepreneurs they bought their orchards at the "right time" and for a relatively good price. This is particularly the case if we compare their costs with today's very high market prices for land that seems to define the current real estate market of the south of the Okanagan Valley (see Carter, 2007; Madison, 2006; Penner, 2005).

Table 3 presents the main barriers experienced by some of our entrepreneurs during the establishment of their orchard businesses. They can be grouped into three major categories: language barriers/cultural shock (different agricultural culture), financing and marketing/market prices. By far the "language barrier" (lack of knowledge of the English language) and the resultant cultural shock were major barriers for approximately two thirds of our respondents. As some respondent explained:

"The language [English]...still today I don't speak English. I always worked for my brother-in-law [Portuguese] who arrived in Canada before chance to learn the language."

"I faced problems understanding the practices of being an orchardist here... very different from Portugal. Without the language [English] I had problems dealing with banks, buying the sprays and readings the instructions in English...very difficult."

These immigrants also encountered a cultural adjustment in terms of adapting to different agricultural practices in Canada. Thus, among other common barriers encountered by these Portuguese orchardists, Joy, 1987, p. 109 notes: "In the Okanagan Valley, the formation of agricultural cooperatives and mechanization of agriculture is a response to the constraints and problems faced by farmers who are drawn into the industrial context. Within this context of collectivization and mechanization, learning to be effective was indeed stressful to the Portuguese...." It must be understood that while agricultural work was a cultural tradition for members of this group, under the Salazar regime in Portugal in the 1950s when they emigrated, mechanization and cooperatives were unknown in the agriculture industry. Thus, as Koroscil (2000, p. 160) indicates, these Portuguese were confronted by a steep learning curve in adapting to Canadian farming methods and technologies: "They utilized the most up to date machinery and they kept pace with the changing orchard management practices that were introduced into the industry. In Portugal if they had a small orchard most of the work would have been accomplished with hand implements and not orchard machinery unless they worked on orchard estate. The major change that the Portuguese orchardists had to adapt to in the Okanagan was the noninterplanting of vegetables between the tree fruits and vineyards. In Portugal, on small orchard acreage where land use was intensive interplanting was a common practice. In the Okanagan, on most orchard parcels, interplanting did not take place because the space between the tree fruits and vineyards was needed for farm machinery use."

Despite the fact that this type of business may require some important sums of financing or capital to buy land and thus start the business, surprisingly only 13 respondents (22.0%) from the three study areas declared having encountered problems getting financing to buy the land they own today. Based on informal interviews we did with "key" leaders of the Portuguese communities in the study areas, we can conclude that one of the defining characteristics of the Portuguese orchardists in the Valley was their heavy reliance on members of their nuclear and/or extended family, including Portuguese friends, to obtain the minimum amount of funds required by financial institutions for the financing to buy land. It seems that often these loans were done in a very informal way ("informal loans") by relatives and/or friends, in some cases without signed documents. This strategy allowed Portuguese immigrants, after only a short period of time in the Valley, to become self-employed.

With regard to this issue of financing, a system of "pool savings" that was quite common at the time among Portuguese immigrants, it is important to note the roles of cultural tradition and trust among members of the same ethnic group:

"Financing...It is raised by a unique system of pooling savings. The Portuguese lend to each other with only verbal agreement, and they do not charge each other interest. When one sceptical Canadian said, ‘Suppose the borrower dies, you'll never see your $2,000 again,' the reply was: ‘If he dies, he loses his life. All I lose is my $2,000.' ... the instinct of the Portuguese is for the land. The money is incidental." (Fraser, 1964, p. 35).

Of course, this strategy proved successful. Often the Portuguese would farm their own 10 or 15 acre parcels of land, and rent out the other 10 acres to other farmers. Through hard work and frugal financial management - with the assistance of other group members - the Portuguese became successful entrepreneurs (Koroscil, 200, p. 162). As one commentator observes:

"A vanished Canadian tradition has been revived. Savings from wages earned in the orchards of the south Okanagan are being turned into capital by a remarkable group of recent immigrants from Portugal...No one expected an orchard worker to be able to go into ownership. But the frugal, hard-working Portuguese, after a few years in the country, are taking on ten- to twenty acre orchards. Some twenty out of the over one hundred families have already bought, and others plan to buy." (Fraser, 1964, p. 34).

Thus, after five decades or so in the valley, the Portuguese entrepreneurs became established land and business owners. In this regard, the cultural importance of owning among the Portuguese serves to explain both their speed of entry into the real estate markets of the Okanagan Valley, as well as their success in their chosen field of entrepreneurship.

Community Resources and Economic Success

An important characteristic of immigrant business in urban Canada is their size - small and family oriented - with extensive use made of family and co-ethnic labour (see Teixeira, Lo and Truelove, 2006). Within this context, how do Portuguese orchardists in rural British Columbia "fit"/perform with regard to the number of people they employ as well as the ethnic background of their employees? Table 4 indicates that only 22 respondents (37.3%) (10 in Penticton, 6 in Oliver and 6 in Osoyoos) employ full time employees. Most orchard operated orchards by Portuguese range from "one person" operation to "family oriented" (2 to 5 full time employees). However, due to the nature of this type of business - seasonal, with heavy labour during the pruning and the harvest seasons - a large number of Portuguese orchardists (38 or 64.4%) in the study areas also rely on part-time employees (Table 5). As indicated by our respondents, most of these part-time employees are temporary migrant workers coming mainly from Quebec, Mexico or other parts of Canada.

Given that family members and co-ethnic labour have traditionally played a crucial role in the operation, as well as in the success and survival, of small ethnic business (see, Waldinger et al. 1990; Barret et al. 1996), it is not surprising that in terms of ethnic background of employees the Portuguese orchardists in the three study areas relied extensively on family members (71.2%) as well as on employees from the same ethnic background (78.0%) to run their orchards. Within this context, the ethnicity of employees - being from a Portuguese background - seems to have been major criteria in the Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos entrepreneurs' hiring decisions.

Portuguese immigrant women - wives and as farm workers - also played a very important role in the running and success of the Portuguese "family oriented" orchard businesses in the Okanagan Valley. As one commentator observes: "The Portuguese women worked...In the initial years, they worked along with their husbands as pickers. When the men bought their own orchard (small farms at first) they had to continue helping their husbands. The only way they could save money to buy more land was not to use hired help. The family therefore worked as a unit. But with the increase in size of the orchards and the returns on them, there was really no need for the women to work. The women, thus freed from orchard work, secured jobs in the packing house...This act of moving out of the house by women can be seen as an indicator of acculturation." (Joy, 1989, p. 130).

Portuguese children were also very important in the operation of these ethnic businesses. As Mrs. Laura Garcia, the daughter of a successful Portuguese orchardist from Osoyoos, recalls: "As a kid, you got up before school and worked on the orchards, went to school, and then worked some more hours when you got home" (Osoyoos Visitor's Guide, 2004, 46). It should also be noted that Portuguese children played an important role in acting as language interpreters for their parents in Canada.

This context leads us to the questions: Why such heavy dependence/reliance on members of their own ethnic group? How important are those employees for Portuguese orchardists in running successfully their business? To explore these issues, respondents were asked to comment on: a) how important are employees of Portuguese background, and b) to comment on the major advantages of having employees of the same ethnic background.

With regard to the first question dealing with the "degree of importance", it is not surprising that most entrepreneurs (43 or 72.9%) cited Portuguese employees as being "very important" or "important" in the running and success of their orchards. Respondents from the three study areas, as evident in Table 6, revealed that the major advantages of having Portuguese as employees is because they are "hard working, reliable and trusty" people, followed by "knowledge of the Portuguese language" (easy to communicate) and their "broad knowledge of farming". As respondents noted:

"Portuguese here [Okanagan] are known for being dedicated and hardworking people... [they] also have a broad knowledge of farming and don't let us down when we more need them."

"I don't speak English and it is easier for us to communicate in Portuguese...they are familiar with the day to day operations of orchards..."

Despite this heavy reliance on their own "ethnic" employees (on a full-time or part-time basis) to run successful their businesses, did this group of Portuguese entrepreneurs also relied on other "ethnic" community resources for information, advice and contacts [in the establishment/operation of their business] that were helpful for their business?

To answer this question, respondents were asked which sources (if any) did they use when starting and/or operating their current business. Almost sixty eight per cent (67.7%) of all sources used by Portuguese entrepreneurs were sources from the same ethnic background. By far the most important sources were relatives and Portuguese friends. Non-Portuguese organizations were second in importance with only 13.6% of the respondents citing these. According to these respondents, both relatives and Portuguese friends occupied a central role in their business "lives" by: a) recommending employees/clients; b) providing information on the selection of the business site; c) with mutual aid and assistance to the Portuguese entrepreneurs in acquiring initial training in the business (fruit growing), and by providing some capital to establish and/or expand their current business (Table 7).

Portuguese entrepreneurs are also closely involved in community networks. Fifty six respondents (94.9%) declared being "highly" or "somewhat" involved in the socio-cultural life of their local Portuguese community. Of those respondents, 71.2% indicated being a member and/or participating actively in the life of their Portuguese community's socio-cultural associations and/or religious organizations.

These results indicate that Portuguese entrepreneurs in the fruit tree industry were highly involved in networks of kinship/friendship and community ties which are instrumental in establishing and running this labour intensive type of businesses.

Business Evaluation: Present and Future

Being self-employed in the orchard business can be both satisfying and frustrating. Which aspects of Portuguese current business satisfy them the most and why? Most Portuguese entrepreneurs (52 or 88.1%) enjoyed the independence of running their own business, followed by working the land and by growing fruit in what they consider to be a good environment and lifestyle (78.0%). As some respondents noted:

"I came from the north of Portugal and there I had contact with the nature... [here] growing top quality produce and having good rate of return when things go well is so satisfying"

"[T]he fact that all decisions are made by myself and it was a great way to raise my family here..."

"The peace of not having a boss looking over my shoulders is priceless...."

"Control of work time scheduling and lifestyle of raising kids with space and privacy around us"

What aspects of the current business dissatisfy them the most? It is interesting to note the elements of dissatisfaction with self-employment among some of our respondents. About eighty seven per cent (86.5%) of our respondents complained about the amount of time (long hours) they spend per week running their business, in conjunction with the hard work involved for the low fruit prices return. In addition another 81.4% of the respondents complained about the uncertainties/fluctuations in the fruit market prices making the orchard business sometimes unattractive and its future unpredictable. The following quotations are revealing of our respondents' views on the operating problems of their orchards:

"When fruit prices are high, I am very satisfied...but government red-tape and low prices for fruit is a major problem for this business...we never know how much we are getting paid for our product."

"The fruit market uncertainty due to unfair trade [with U.S.A.] and the import practices that affect the viability of my own business and the fruit industry here."

"Long hours, hard work...physically demanding summers for the family."

"Long hours, low pay and hard work...the uncertainties of the weather conditions like frost, rain... and one of the hardest part now is the shortage of employees."

"The fruit market conditions...can be catastrophic for farming business. Lack of Federal/Provincial funding when crops are trade and not being able to market our local fruit."

In these complaints, the Portuguese immigrants are echoing the concerns of the industry as a whole. Joe Sardinha, a Portuguese orchardist and also the President of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, expressed similar concerns with regard to the future of the fruit industry. As he observed: "There are many opportunities for branding B.C. products and promotion and the industry strategy has to include industry sustainability. We believe we grow the best apples in the world, but the fact that borders are open and unrestricted is making it tough" (Watts, 2006, p. 23).

Despite the numerous "challenges" of running an orchard in the very competitive fruit tree industry in Okanagan Valley today (see Seymour, 2005; Steves, 2005), Portuguese entrepreneurs self-evaluation of their business seems to be very positive. With regard to their self-evaluation of their business success, in all three study areas almost all respondents cited being "very successful" or "successful" (100% in Penticton, 85.7% in Oliver and 96.0% in Osoyoos). Thus, the large majority of Portuguese entrepreneurs in this part of rural Canada - the Okanagan Valley - feel they have done well and succeeded in their industry.

A number of factors have contributed to the success of these Portuguese businesses (Table 8). By far the factor most cited by Portuguese entrepreneurs as contributing to their business success were: a) family members; b) their business location; c) the good reputation/ business relationship with customers and the community; and d) business practices and/or marketing strategies. However, respondents were also asked for the two most important factors in the success of their businesses. By far the most important one was "family members" (61.0%), followed by (although much less important) their business location (28.8%).

Respondents were also asked about how their future outlook for their orchard business in Penticton, Oliver or Osoyoos. It is interesting to note that these Portuguese entrepreneurs were divided in their responses. Only one Portuguese respondent from Osoyoos noted that their business was growing, while another 28 respondents (47.5%) noted their business were stable. In contrast, about one third of all respondents (21 or 35.6%) were pessimistic about the future, declaring that their business is "getting worse." (Table 9). When this last group of respondents were asked to elaborate and comment on this response, some of them emphasized the fact that the first generation of Portuguese orchardists is getting older and retiring, while the new Canadian-born Portuguese generations are simply not interested in following the footsteps of their parents and farming the land. In the words of these respondents:

"More bad years than good in the past decade... [also] the new Portuguese generation [born in Canada] wants nothing to do with the fruit business and a lot of the old generation is getting out..."

"First generation Portuguese are getting older and retiring and their descendants have been educated here and have less stress and better pay...why bother with orchards?"

"Portuguese are selling to East Indians...a lot of hard work and expenses and their children do not want this type of business. It is simple as that"

"I don't know what to say...they [Portuguese] are old, retiring....I have three sons and none so far showed interest in keeping the's sad after all these years..."

Another group of respondents showed also their concern about the competitive nature of the fruit industry, particularly with regard to free trade and the USA, and its unpredictability with the low price returns from fruit growing in the Valley today:

"Dumping of fruit from USA at below of cost of production.... [and] poor government support doesn't help this business at all..."

"World competition with lower salaries compared to Canada..."

"Urban pressures and reduction of farm land to housing...other interests rather than fruit. Some farmers are cashing on it.... Many farmers are also already converting to grapes...Worldwide the fruit market is very competitive with China coming into the picture."

"Labour increased [salaries] and the returns decreased...In 1974 I used to pay $2 dollars per hour [employee] [2005] is $15 per hour....In 1974 they used to pay 33 cents a pound and now 25 cents a pound...just survival."

Within this context of uncertainty and some lack of confidence in the fruit industry, it is not surprising that when Portuguese respondents were asked about their businesses plans for the next five years, about half of the respondents (57.6%) in the three study areas (7 in Penticton, 11 in Oliver and 16 in Osoyoos) simply indicated they are "going out of business" for personal/retirement reasons. As indicated in Table 10, very few are those respondents who are planning to expand their business in the future by seeking additional capital investments, hiring more employees and/or to moving to a larger orchard.

Evidence from this study indicates that Portuguese orchardists who are moving towards the age of retirement are also planning their "exit" from the orchard businesses. However, they are divided on the issue of what to do in the near future with the land/orchard they own: sell it and "cash in" or pass it on to their children. Thus, when respondents were asked the key question - "when you retire, do you hope to pass this business on to your children or to other members of the family?" - only 19 respondents (32.2%) (5 in Penticton, 9 in Oliver and 5 in Osoyoos) mentioned that they intend to pass on their farms to family members. Almost half of the respondents (47.5%) said "no", and another 12 (20.3%) simply replied "don't know"; suggesting that they are leaving up to the decision to their children to keep (or not) the land/orchard. For those respondents who would like to pass on their land to their children or family members, they explained why:

"Nice to see the land I worked so hard stay in the family..."

"I would like to leave it to my son because I love my farm and land..."

"I love this location and I would like it to remain in the family...I also would like to retire and live in the property."

"We have three sons and would hope at least one will keep the farm..."

"Feel so good to pass to my children and remain in the family. We came to Canada because of them...a better future."

In these responses we can see something of the deep attachment of these Portuguese immigrants to the land and their new home in Canada. However, it is interesting to note how those who are not intending to leave their land to family members reveal the transformation in education and opportunity that is also defining the new generations of the Portuguese group in Canada.

"My children have education and went to other jobs...they looked for a different career and lifestyle which I don't blame them."

"My children have university education and are not interested in the fruit industry."

"My son is pursuing his own career and I will not interfere there... [also] I don't want my children to arrive at 40 and suffer has I do from my back problems. This is a very tough type of job...I used to work from sun to sun..."

Perhaps nothing so symbolizes the fact that the Portuguese community of the Okanagan Valley is a community in transition as their changing cultural imprint on the landscape of the south Okanagan Valley. This is evident in the numerous colourful roadside fruit and vegetable stands that once dotted the landscape of the region. For years, the signs on the stands, featuring Portuguese family names, were markers of the group's presence in the region and the industry. These markers are changing however, as Korsocil (2000, p. 164, 165) observes: "In the 1970s and early 1980s the roadsides of Oliver and Osoyoos were dotted with stands. Every Portuguese farmer who owned an orchard operated a fruit and vegetable stand in front of their house.....The young people left in the family were no longer willing to run a stand... The ‘signs' on the stands that remain also reflect the changing attitude of the new generation. The first generation of Portuguese were eager to use their surnames on their property and enterprises such as Ferreira's Fruitstand and Moreira's Fruitstand. However, the second generation use their Christian names such as Tony's Fruit and Vegetable Stand and Danny's Drive-In."

Other respondents made the case that the fact that the Portuguese-owned orchard business in the Valley is in transition is simply the new reality of the "life-cycle"/demographics of the orchard industry. In this regard, it is particularly interesting to note that this one group of immigrant entrepreneurs seems to be being replaced by another group of immigrant entrepreneurs with the arrival of new farmers in the Okanagan from the Punjab region of India (see also, Seymour, 2006). In the words of one respondent:

"Let's be realistic...Changing demographics have been led by a new influx of immigrants to the Okanagan Valley. Many orchards were at one time operated by Portuguese families. These farms have since been sold to Indo-Canadian families that now operate approximately 55% of the fruit orchards valley-wide. The young Portuguese families have benefited from higher education opportunities and have moved on to non-farming careers, leaving the parents to sell the farming upon retirement..."

For the Portuguese in the south Okanagan Valley, the dilemmas they are facing mirror those of Portuguese across Canada as the first generation of Portuguese immigrants to this country nears or enters retirement and the new generations of Portuguese Canadians look to new horizons and possibilities. The Portuguese are clearly on the move; the only question remains "to where?"

BC Local News, aqui, acedido em 22 de Junho de 2009

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