Bringing the South Pacific to the Valley

Abbotsford soil is rich and growing conditions are good.

George Petkov is growing kiwi fruit north of the 49th parallel.

In my recent forays into all things edible I heard a rumour about someone growing kiwi on a commercial scale in the Abbotsford area.

To be honest, I didn’t believe it, so I just googled ‘kiwi’ and ‘Abbotsford’ and up popped the name George Petkov.

I contacted George by e-mail and set up a meeting, so I could see this established kiwi orchard with my own two eyes. Getting there was a pleasant drive through pastoral Matsqui and as I passed a sprawling vineyard of ripening grapes growing on a gentle hillside, I knew I was on the right track. Just around the corner, on a sunny southeast facing slope I was confronted by the improbable – seven and a half acres of kiwi vines growing on a raised support pergola of wooden posts and wires, all fitted with a drip irrigation system.

I was initially awestruck by the sight of kiwis as far as the eye could see but George, who was doing the summer pruning with a co-worker, made me feel right at home. When I meet people who do incredible things (like establishing B.C.’s largest commercial kiwi orchard) I always like to ask why, because I think motive tells you a lot about a person and George answered well.

He said he wanted to grow the fruits that he enjoyed as a child on his parents and grandparents 12-acre farm in Macedonia (former Yugoslavia). I can relate to that, as my own grandmother’s Okanagan orchard and gardens continue to inspire me decades after they have ceased to exist.

But Macedonia is not the Okanagan, and translating those childhood memories from southern Europe (just north of Greece) to Canada can prove to be quite an undertaking.

With a master’s degree in viticulture and fruit production, as well as years working in the winery industry, George certainly had the knowledge and experience to grow, but finding that perfect site can be a daunting task.

Earlier kiwi orchards (encouraged by Agriculture Canada) planted in the 1980s on Vancouver Island came to ruin when late spring frosts killed many of the vines – so commercial aspirations were quickly abandoned, with just a few smaller operations surviving. George still believed it could be achieved given the right location, which he discovered on the eight acres he grows on in rural Abbotsford. Here he found rich soil with good drainage, gently sloping southeastern fields that allow the cold air and frosts to sweep downhill out of harm’s way, and fresh well water for irrigation.

He started in 2008, planting cloned vines that he imported from Italy (the second largest producer of kiwi behind China) using ‘Hayward’ as his primary female and ‘Tomuri’ as the male pollinator – planted at an 8 to 1 ratio.

He had to wait three to four years for the vines to mature before his first harvest, at which time he had to change gears and start marketing his grown-in-B.C. kiwis. Last year’s yield was 70 metric tonnes, and George is expecting somewhere between 90-100 tonnes this season. His kiwis are harvested from late October to early November, a process that takes five days for about 15 pickers. The fruit is then put into cold storage to ripen where it can be kept for up to six months. You can find George at the Vancouver Winter Farmer’s Market (Nat Bailey Stadium) where he sells his fresh fruit and kiwi jam – so you too can enjoy a little taste of Macedonia grown right here in the Fraser Valley.

To learn more about Petkov Kiwi Production visit petkovkiwi.com.

 

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police boats were called in to search the Fraser River after a report that a plane had crashed where the river runs between Langley and Maple Ridge. (Shane MacKichan/Special to The News)
Investigation enters final phase, missing aircraft last seen over Fraser River in Maple Ridge

Small aircraft was carrying a student and instructor on June 6

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announces new infrastructure, flanked by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidate Cheryl Ashlie and Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Chelsa Meadus. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)
Liberals promise transportation infrastructure in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Wilkinson said his party would also add mental health beds at Ridge Meadows Hospital

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announces an end to the ICBC monopoly if the Liberal Party is elected, during a stop in Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/The News)
BC Liberal Leader in Pitt Meadows for announcement

Wilkinson visits Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding seen as a key election battleground

Caitlin Smith shows a picture of her own kids trying to manouvre the are of 123rd Avenue and Creston Street in Maple Ridge to demonstrate the danger that exists for pedestrians in that area. (Caitlin Smith/Special to The News)
LETTER: Maple Ridge traffic circle a potential ‘death trap’

Parent reiterates ongoing plea for council to make city streets safe for pedestrians

Ron Paley shared a picture from a Sunday morning bike ride, before the rains, when he stopped across the street from Krystal Creek Riding stable, on Ford Detour Road in Pitt Meadows. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Check out the horsepower found in this Pitt Meadows field

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Surrey teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

The many faces of Daon Glasgow. (Photos: Surrey RCMP)
Glasgow found not guilty of trying to murder transit cop in Surrey

Transit Police Constable Josh Harms was shot Jan. 30, 2019 at Scott Road SkyTrain Station

Most Read