Leah Blain photo                                 Harriet and James Hanna are retiring after more than four decades in the business.

Leah Blain photo Harriet and James Hanna are retiring after more than four decades in the business.

Friends & Neighbours: Orchard icons opt for retirement

James and Harriet Hanna are never far from their work. Their home is surrounded by apple orchards and overlooks the store. But in a few months this will all be done. They’ve decided it’s time to retire.

“It has not been easy,” says Harriet. “We were building on the generations before us.”

“Twenty years ago we thought, ‘We don’t want to be the generation that loses the farm. We had a responsibility,” adds James. “Five generations of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into this place.”

“We need someone who has a new vision to take it to a new level,” says Harriet, noting the business is currently for sale. “Our fruit is the top 10 of 400 that go to the packing house, and our galas and honey crisps are number one in BC. Salmon Arm is one of the best growing areas in the valley for apples. I think a cidery would be great. If we were younger we would do it.”

That’s the key to the Hanna success, each generation expanded the business to meet the changed demands. Years ago things were different.

“That old barn used to be a dairy barn,” says James pointing out the old structure. “Dad and granddad always had a herd of jersey cows, maybe up to 15 head. Dad had to get a job in the mill to pay the bills. He would work graveyard, get a few hours of sleep and then be out in the orchard.”

Harriet (nee Vander-Hock) grew up in Salmon Arm, albeit on the other side and her life was all about dairy farming.

“I was cleaning all the milk machinery on Saturdays and getting the cows from the field, helping with bailing. Having to home every afternoon by 5 to milk was so tedious I made up decision I wasn’t going to marry a dairy farmer.”

When she was 16 her mother broke her leg so Harriet had to take on the gardening and canning.

“I made another decision. I thought gardening was one of the stupidest things you could do with your time and I was never going to do that. A declaration at 16 doesn’t necessarily follow you through life,” Harriet says laughing. “So I married a fruit grower – because I loved him. Now I love gardening, it’s an outlet for creativity.”

But their romance wasn’t love at first sight when they met in elementary school. Harriet’s brothers used to tease James and when he tried to get back at them, Harriet stepped in.

“A nice girl in a blue dress came up to me and informed me if I hurt her brothers she would beat me up,” says James.

“I don’t remember this,” says Harriet.

They started dating before the end of high school and have now been married for 44 years.

In the early years when Harriet was at home with the children they decided to sell apples from the property so she had a sign asking people to honk for service.

A lot has changed since they took over the farm in 1983. They’ve added, improved, and expanded the business. However, instead of looking back, they’re looking forward to a life of retirement.

They plan to do more kayaking, hiking, biking, and some traveling. Harriet is hoping to do some singing and painting. James is talking about getting into the community band.

“It’s not going to be a new life, just different,” says James. “Instead of the job governing our lives, it will be us deciding what we’re going to do.”