1945: 1949 - Dorenberg Orchards, the van Roechoudt family
Louis and Suzanne van Roechoudt emigrated to Canada from Belgium with their three children in 1949. Louis had studied agronomy at the University of Leuven in Belgium and had owned orchards in France near the border with Switzerland. Louis had heard of the Okanagan’s ideal climate for growing tree fruits; as a result, the van Roechoudts came straight to British Columbia after emigrating and settled quickly in Okanagan Centre. They purchased land from James Goldie, Manager of the Rainbow Ranche.
The 1950s were marked by a series of harsh winters and extremely low temperatures which severely damaged and even destroyed many fruit trees. The resulting poor income prospects obliged Louis van Roechoudt to take on additional work as a Farm Manager at Vernon Orchards, while Suzanne van Roechoudt contributed to crop thinning on the orchard and sorting fruit for several harvest seasons at the Vernon Fruit Union Packing house on Woodsdale Road. The children (Marc, Anne and Eric) spent their summers and evenings after school working on the orchard. Originally planted with peaches, apricots and old varieties of apples all at a standard spacing (20′ x 20′). Louis used his knowledge of European high-density fruit growing systems to replant the orchard, thereby being the first to plant high density in the Okanagan. They planted varieties more in demand and used dwarf rootstocks, which could be planted at higher densities and come into production earlier. The planting system would become known as the “van Roechoudt trellis”. The first planting was Golden Delicious on M9 rootstock planted at 6’ x 11’ in 1956. This remained a highly productive block until it was replanted in 1992 by Marc van Roechoudt. It was replanted to Gala on M9 in a 4’ x 12’ spacing.
Marc van Roechoudt took over from his father in 1969 when Louis retired. At that time the orchard consisted of apples, cherries, pears and apricots. Marc grew many different crops but eventually specialized in apples (Sunrise, Gala and Ambrosia). A good relationship with the Summerland Research and Development Centre 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!
In 1976 Marc married Tessa McDonnell, granddaughter of James Goldie. Marc and Tessa’s daughter Madeleine completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of British Columbia in 2004 and returned to work on the orchard with Marc in 2006. Madeleine took over the management of the orchard after Marc’s death in 2015.
The van Roechoudt family have been recognized leaders in the Okanagan’s tree fruit industry for decades. The BC Fruit Growers’ Association (BCFGA) inaugural Compact Tree Fruit Award was presented to Louis van Roechoudt in 1967. Marc and Madeleine won the BCFGA’s Golden Apple Award in 2009 recognizing excellence in tree fruit production practices. Marc and Madeleine have been very involved in the industry and in the community sitting on various different committees ranging from the BCFGA’s Executive, BCFGA committees, New Variety Development Council, District of Lake Country Water Advisory Committee and the District of Lake Country Agriculture Advisory Committee.”
Letter from James Goldie to Louis L. van Roechoudt, September 10, 1954
Letter from James Goldie to Mrs. Susanne M.A.H. van Roechoudt, September 10, 1954
Eric and Anne van Roechoudt