Kevin, 37 (left) and Lance, 28
family background / Kevin Shaw, a first-generation farmer, grew up in Kenya and pursued an engineering degree. Lance Davison, a fourth-generation farmer, grew up in Vernon and focused on horticulture in college. Kevin married Lance’s sister, Laura. The family business includes parents, Tamra and Tom Davison, and grandparents, Dora and Bob Davison.
crops / Apples, stone fruit, diversified crops
business / Davison Orchards Country Village
How did you get your start?
Kevin: I learned mechanical engineering at University of Waterloo in Ontario, then moved out to Vernon and married Lance’s sister, Laura. I joined the family business and haven’t looked back. I just love farming, working hard and seeing the fruits of your labor.
Lance: Our farm has a wide range of different things and I was able to do a bit of construction, operating equipment, little bit with the market in retail. When I was a kid, I remember picking rocks was one of my first jobs. We grow our vegetables on hillsides in rock, clay and gravel, so every year I was picking rocks. I think it’s a normal childhood farm experience.
From thinning in the orchard to other orchard tasks I was drawn to the farm equipment and every opportunity I had I was out working with a passion for what we’re doing. I then went to college and took a couple years in horticulture at Olds College in Alberta, Canada. I learned about soils and growing things, then I rejoined the farm.
Why did you pursue these paths?
Kevin: My interest in engineering really was rooted in mechanics. Growing up in Africa, I had the opportunity to be with my father, who was a missionary, pilot and mechanic. When you’re flying around in the bush over there and you break down, you need to be able to put the airplane back together to get home.
That’s where my interest in fixing things came from. Then, when I went to university, I learned more about the theory of how things work. I ended up getting a manufacturing job in Vernon, out of college. When I transitioned into the farm it was a natural fit.
The Davisons are really good at growing and retail, but don’t prefer working with new technology. We have a lot of microbusinesses in the farm — from a bakery, café, point-of-sale system, market, juice production, fresh fruit packing — and each of those areas use technology to varying degrees. From the time I started, I was very busy keeping their equipment going.
Lance: I’m the fourth generation working our farm and I get to work with my grandfather who’s 87 years old, who’s out there every day. I work with him and my dad several hours a day, but when I was growing up, I spent most of my time with grandpa learning about irrigation and horticulture.
He drives around in his quad checking my work and doesn’t let me get away with anything. It’s a privilege and a pretty unique opportunity to work with both of them and it’s something I’ve loved about the farm.
What are some of your jobs and opportunities?
Kevin: There’s certainly a lot of different technology that can assist with the marketing side of our business. We’re at the end of a dead-end road within a city of about 60,000 people and about 400,000 in the valley within an hour drive.
So getting people to the farm has been my mother-in-law’s job since the mid-’80s when they added direct-to-farm marketing. One thing we’ve added is putting TV screens with advertising throughout the farm and market. I’ve been able to help with the technology that operates those screens, so we’re always keeping the images on the displays current.
Lance: We introduced our new packing line after increasing our acreage. So, dad and I love growing and packing but we don’t want anything with a computer, because we don’t know how to work it.
When Kevin joined us full time, we thought it was time to do this and make it a reality. Four years ago, we were able to put the line in and Kevin keeps it running. Without having someone like Kevin we wouldn’t be able to add high technology tools to the farm.
What are you excited about for the future?
Lance: We’ve been planting, increasing our production 50 percent. Apples are our focus and it’s what we really believe we do the best of our crops. As those acres become more and more productive, there’ll be more pounds to move, so we need to continue having a supreme product that we can move to customers.
Our market also makes juice, pies and other products that all need apples. The reality is, these other things end up selling apples. We will continue to grow as demand grows for nonapple support crops. Growing apples is what we’ve done well for generations and we will continue to learn as much as we can to do it better.
Kevin: One of the things I get excited about, even at our size, is the defect sorting technology on our line. Labor is a major portion of the pie and if we can help with the consistency of our product while reducing labor costs at the same time, then we’ll be looking at it. One of our challenges is finding a good work-life balance, primarily because we love what we do.
What advice would you have for young growers?
Kevin: I loved making the switch from working in other industries to farming. If you’re new to the industry, it’s not a career where you’ll have two homes in a mountain ski village, but you get to work hard alongside your family, which is both a privilege and a blessing.
Lance: There is a future working in this industry. If you have an opportunity to work in ag, I would challenge you to grab it and don’t be scared. There are ways to make a living farming; sometimes you just need to use your imagination a little bit.
—by TJ Mullinax