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100-year-old Kelowna business invests in future at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Owners of one of Kelowna’s original pioneer businesses have decided to invest in the future by creating an endowment fund for landscape horticulture students at Okanagan College.

Five descendants of one of the founders of the 100-year-old Stewart Brothers Nurseries have donated $10,000 to the College for an endowment to create the annual Stewart Brothers Nurseries Award for successful applicants enrolled in the Landscape Horticulture Certificate Program.

“We wanted to give back to the community that we’ve been part of for the last 100 years,” said Sandra Bjarnason, who along with her sisters Colleen Mulvihill, Kate Stewart, Jennifer Stewart and Julie Crawford made the donation.

The sisters are all grandchildren of Richard Stewart, who along with his brother William, launched the company in 1911. The company quickly positioned itself as a key player in establishing the Okanagan as a fruit-growing mecca.

Over the next four decades, the nursery continued to grow, and by the 1950s, the company’s focus shifted from fruit to shade trees. Today Stewart Brothers Nurseries supplies shade trees throughout Western Canada, primarily focused on municipalities, as well as commercial and residential landscapers.

Bjarnason said the current focus on healthy living and the environment continues to invigorate not only the Stewart family business, but the industry itself.

“It’s a fabulous time to be in horticulture,” said Bjarnason. “People are realizing we need trees if we want to have a healthy planet, and they now understand more about the value of having trees in their communities.”

Program instructor Rodger Hallman agreed.

“There are so many opportunities out there that students can take advantage of,” said Hallman, “and people are looking for those who have certification.”

Kathy Butler, executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation, said it’s an honour to have a new endowment such as this carry the name of such a well-established Okanagan family.

“We are very grateful for this special endowment for our students,” she said. “I know our students here will appreciate the vision your forefathers had in starting their business, and as they grow in their own careers in this new era, that they will take on that responsibility of working in concert with nature.”

The Okanagan College Foundation works with donors who are interested in making life better, and careers stronger for the next generation by creating valuable awards, scholarships and bursaries. For more information, call the Foundation at 250-862-5630 in Kelowna or Toll-Free at 1-888-650-6968.

The Landscape Horticulture Certificate consists of a 120-hour program, which includes instruction in botany and soil science, plant identification, along with landscape construction and maintenance. Sessions get underway early in 2012 with programs offered in Penticton, Kelowna and Salmon Arm. For more details, contact Continuing Studies or visit www.okanagan.bc.ca and search for Landscape Horticulture Certificate.