The lives of Ed and Rose Hoffman have centred around family, food and hard work.
And they’re still going strong — and growing — 71 years after Ed first moved to the Okanagan in 1948.
The happy couple, who soon will celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary, are the proud owners of Hoffman Orchards, a 13-hectare property on Longhill Road in the Glenmore neighbourhood of Kelowna.
They are also the former owners of the Four Way Foods grocery store, which they owned and operated for more than a decade. They also managed Cooper’s Foods in Rutland, which is now Save-On-Foods.
For the past several years, the Hoffman Orchards fruit stand at 2512 Longhill Rd. has sold some of the best-tasting fruit in the Okanagan, including cherries, three varieties of pears, seven varieties of apples, nectarines and peaches.
Since the fruit stand opened, the Hoffmans’ daughter Jacki Hoffman Zehner and her husband Greg and their two children, Matthew and Allie, have returned to Kelowna during the summer months to help manage the orchard and assist at the fruit stand while visiting Jacki’s parents.
The three generations of Hoffmans take great pride in working as a team to sell, literally, the fruits of their labour.
Ed Hoffman, 82, moved from Melville, Sask., to Kelowna with his family — which includes eight boys and one girl — more than 70 years ago and has never once thought of leaving.
“We moved here originally because my dad has asthma and he felt good here with the great weather,” Hoffman said. “Dad was a builder . . . he built schools and hospitals . . . and he found a lot of work here right away.”
Ed and Rose decided to buy the orchard they have called home since 1999 soon after seeing a “For Sale” sign on a whim.
“My parents were actually driving me to the airport as I was heading back to New York, and there was a sign on the corner that this piece of property was for sale,” said Jacki. “We didn’t even look at the entire property. My dad had a history of working in orchards . . . and this land was all old orchards and this little old cottage. We looked at the property, bought it on the spot, and my dad has been managing it ever since.”
Ed first found work at the old Okanagan Fruit packing house on Ellis Street as a teenager, and he has made growing and selling food his life’s work ever since.
Jacki and her husband and their two kids have once again made the long trek from Utah to spend several weeks helping out at the fruit stand, a tradition that will likely end this year as Matthew is starting a new job in the fall after graduating from the University of Chicago and Allie is about to attend Columbia University in a few weeks.
“Me and my husband and the kids have been coming here every summer since I retired from my job at Goldman Sachs in New York,” she said. “We have come out every summer since 2002 to help work the orchard and fruit stand. We used to come from the day school went out until the day they went back, but now, depending on their schedules, we usually come for a month or so from the middle of July until the middle of August.”
While she hasn’t lived in Kelowna since being a teenager, “it will always be home,” and she and her family always get excited to return every summer.
“It’s so nice for family to spend time together the way that we do. Being with Mom and Dad and cutting and selling fruit and chatting with our longtime customers, it’s such a special time, and I really think some of the best times my children will remember about their childhood is time spent here.”
The matriarch of the Hoffman clan agrees.
“It’s wonderful when the family can get together every summer,” she said.
Ed said owning and operating a large orchard takes a lot of hard work and long days on his beloved John Deere Gator tractor.
“First of all, you had better know what the hell you are doing,” he said with a smile. “I learned about apples and fruit in the packing house way back. Then we bought this place and I learned on the job.”
Longtime employee Joe Viscente has also played a key role in the success of the orchard and fruit stand as a loyal and committed worker, he said.
A typical workday “runs from dawn till dusk, seven days a week,” he said. “And it’s pretty much year-round now with all the pruning and other stuff you have to get done in the winter.
“To me, it’s not a job, but something I love. It’s a fun thing.”
Hundreds of loyal customers keep returning year after year to buy fruit, and being able to shake their hand and share a smile is also very rewarding, he said.
Ed and Rose don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
“I like what I’m doing,” he said. “It has been a good life . . . so I don’t plan on stopping now.”
For more information about Hoffman Orchards and their fruit stand, visit @hoffmanorchards on Facebook and Instagram.
You can also reach the fruit stand by calling 250-763-8076.