Linda Edwards grew up on a cattle and grain farm in Saskatchewan. The strong agricultural background allows her to brag that she can still (and does) pluck and eviscerate chickens as well as distinguish a barley field from a wheat field at 80 klicks/hr. Linda’s first degree was in sociology from the University of Saskatchewan, where her predilection and addiction to seeing and thinking in terms of systems began to develop.
It was a short leap from working as a community development worker and dealing with the complexity of human issues and problems to entering a BSc program in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at UBC where she embraced the complexity of crop management. After completing her BSc (Agr) in 1982, Linda was very pleased to work with Dr Judy Myers in an MSc program. This led to a fascination with research as a way of finding solutions to problems. She completed the degree in 1986. According to Linda her work with Dr Myers was a thinly-disguised way of finding work in the orchard industry. She became addicted to research and a curiosity-driven approach to agricultural problems which has never changed.
Linda went on to become an industry leader in the production of organic fruit in BC and Canada. Through her company, Integrated Crop Management Inc., she has played a vital role in bringing integrated pest management to the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. She developed a biologically-based control system for the devastating and insecticide-resistant insect pest, pear psylla, and is credited with having saved pear production from near devastation in the Okanagan Valley. Her protocols continue to be used. Her book “Organic Tree Fruit Management” remains a valuable and widely adopted guide for organic orchardists. She also co-authored “Field guide to harmful and beneficial insects and mites of tree fruits” with Hugh Philips.
Linda has been a leader in the development of standards for organic fruit production and is president of the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society, and on the board of the Certified Organic Association of BC. Linda has always held a scientific approach to solving practical problems and continually experiments with new varieties, management practices, and marketing opportunities.
Linda has maintained close ties with the Faculty and participates in problem-based learning courses by bringing her practical experience as an organic orchardist to help students develop plans for successful orchard production. She has also been actively involved in graduate student theses directed toward ecological solutions to problems involving insect pests such as thrips and rosy apple aphids and the study of soils in organic orchards. Linda and her partner and UBC graduate Brian Mennell have developed one of the largest organic apple orchards in BC, and through example they have helped the community of organic orchardists to expand and thrive. With Linda’s vision and driving enthusiasm, the BC organic tree fruit industry has become one of the most successful sectors of agriculture in the country. As the organic tree fruit industry in BC has prospered, a whole generation of new young growers has been recruited to carry on in the future of this dynamic industry.
Linda says of her self: I can see myself as a little, old, arthritic lady tottering out to a growers meeting saying correlation does not mean causation: you need to have some controls”. Thus what started as a summer undergraduate NSERC project has turned into a lifelong learning and teaching endeavor as Linda shares her expertise, insights and training with colleagues and students in her personal quest for economically and environmentally sustainable fruit production.
R Blair and CR Nichols, 2008, with contributions from Dr Judy Myers