Dorenberg Orchards was originally part of the Rainbow Ranche, which dates back to the turn of the century and the beginnings of fruit growing in the Okanagan. The Rainbow Ranche consisted of some 500 acres and was incorporated in 1909 by 3 partners, Mc Allister , Dormer, and Goldie. Goldie became the manager as the other two were silent partners, one living in Toronto and the other in England. With the construction of irrigation systems sourced from high elevation mountain lakes and distributed by gravity, it became possible to grow fruit trees and other crops in the very dry climate of the Okanagan Valley. In 1948 James Goldie retired and for lack of a successor the orchard part of the Rainbow Ranche was subdivided into smaller orchard parcels and sold to new comers.
In 1949, the Van Roechoudt family emigrated to Canada from Belgium and purchased 24 acres of the Rainbow Ranche from James Goldie. Shortly thereafter an adjoining 14 acres became available and was also purchased. The 1950s were marked by a series of harsh winters which severely damaged and even destroyed many of the fruit trees due to extremely low freezing temperatures. The resulting poor income prospects obliged Louis to take on additional work as a farm manager at Vernon Orchards, while Suzanne contributed to crop thinning and sorting fruit for several harvest seasons at the Vernon Fruit Union Packing house in Woodsdale. Marc, the oldest son, spent his summers and evenings after High School helping to maintain the orchards and carry out seasonal tasks. Originally the land was planted mainly with peaches, apricots and apples all at a standard spacing (20’ x 20’). Most of the apple varieties were old and eventually became obsolete. Louis used his knowledge of European high-density fruit growing systems to replant his orchard. Louis planted varieties more in demand and used dwarf rootstocks, which could be planted at higher densities and came into production earlier.
Marc took over from his father in 1969 when Louis retired. The orchard consisted of apples, cherries, pears and apricots when Marc took over. Marc grew many different crops but eventually specialized in apples. A good relationship with the Pacific Agriculture Research Centre in Summerland, BC was developed. Dorenberg Orchards often conducted trials of new varieties as they were tested for commercialization. Marc was always interested in new varieties and this relationship allowed him to be a very early adopter of new varieties!
Louis van Roechoudt
Louis studied agronomy at the University of Leuven, Belgium and owned orchards in France near the border with Switzerland. After the WWII, Louis took his family to the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in Africa where he worked on an experimental farm developing tropical crops. In 1949 Louis and his family moved to Canada and bought a piece of the Rainbow Ranche from James Goldie in Okanagan Centre, BC. Louis used his knowledge of European high density fruit growing systems to replant his orchard. As his new plantings became successful Louis decided he could help other growers adopt new methods by consulting. In order to achieve accreditation, Louis completed a Masters in Horticulture through the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Louis retired from the orchard and moved back to Europe in 1969.
Marc van Roechoudt
Marc immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 13. He graduated from high school in Rutland and then moved to Montreal where he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Geological Engineering. Marc started a Masters in Geology at McGill University but then returned to the Okanagan to take over the orchard from his father before his Masters was completed. Marc followed in his father’s innovative footsteps by experimenting with high-density plantings and new varieties. Marc took great pride in his apples and was awarded the Golden Apple Award, the Farm Family of the Year award along with taking top prizes at the Royal Winter Fair for his Ambrosia and Royal Gala apples.
Marc was an active volunteer with both community and industry groups. He sat on the Lake Country Water Advisory Committee for nearly thirty years, was a BC Fruit Growers’ Association committee member, and also vice-chair of the Ambrosia Council.
Marc’s biggest passion was skiing. You could regularly find him on the slopes of Big White Ski Resort in the winter, often as a Snow Host touring guests around the mountain.