R.C. “Dick” Palmer was the head of the Summerland Research Station. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

Palmer worked with apple breeding program in Summerland

Horticulturalist initiated the apple breeding and the clonal rootstock programs in 1920s

By David Gregory

Richard Claxton Palmer, who worked with apple breeding at the research station in Summerland, was born in Victoria B.C. in 1897.

His father was renowned horticulturalist Richard Mason Palmer (1859-1940.)

The senior Palmer played a central role in the formation of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. He later became British Columbia’s deputy of Agriculture (1909-1911.)

When Sir Thomas Shaughnessy considered establishing an agricultural community in the Okanagan Valley (Summerland), he consulted R.M. Palmer. He had three sons, Frank, Horace and Richard.

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Frank Palmer chose an almost identical path as brother Richard.

Frank became the director of the Vineland Research Station in Ontario. His career spanned more than 40 years.

Some of the plant species developed by the Vineland Research Station were named starting with the letter V.

A similar tradition was used at the Summerland Research Station, using the letter S.

At the age of 19, Richard ‘Dick’ Palmer (junior) enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1916 and fought in the battle of Passchendaele (November 1917.)

In 1920, he began his career at the Summerland Research Station.

As assistant superintendent under W.T. Hunter, Dick was active in the community and frequently wrote horticultural articles for the Summerland Review.

In July 1924 he married Marjorie C Mathieson.

In that same year, Palmer initiated the apple breeding and the clonal rootstock programs.

He became the spokesman and primary supporter of the Summerland Fall Fair (which in those days was celebrated in June and called the Farm Picnic.)

In the history of Summerland’s agricultural fairs, the largest attendances were at these farm picnics in the 1930s.

In 1927, Dick Palmer introduced defined harvesting dates for apples with the intent of reducing breakdown in storage.

A year later, Palmer he did the same thing with harvesting dates for peaches.

In 1932, after a short exchange program to England, he returned to Summerland and became the Summerland Research Station’s third superintendent.

He introduced tuberous begonias and many strains of chrysanthemums and new varieties of gladioli.

In 1949, Palmer was honoured as Summerland’s Good Citizen of the Year.

He died from a heart attack at work in March 1953.

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Richard Mason Palmer played a central role in the formation of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

Frank Palmer was the director of the Vineland Research Station in Ontario. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)

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