Aikins Loop Lore

Aikins Loop Lore

An intersection of art and agriculture 

It’s not surprising that Aikins Loop now finds itself a hub of the fermentation arts. 
The land where Aikins Loop now sits has agricultural roots with a renaissance man – a man widely known for not only his innovation in the agricultural development of the Naramata Bench, but in his cultural contributions as an author, playright, producer and director.
Aikins Loop is named after Carroll Aikins. In 1909, a 21 year old Aikins arrived in Naramata with hopes that the dry climate would be helpful for a lung ailment. He purchased what was said to be JM Robinson (founder of Naramata’s) biggest acreage sale of 100 acres the centre of which is what we now know as Aikins Loop.
In between the toil of working the land and establishing his large fruit orchard in the area surrounding The Aikins Loop, Carroll spent free time writing poetry and penning plays.

Putting the ‘culture’ in agriculture

Aikins received a big boost in 1919, with the news that one of his plays, “The Gods of Gods” was going to be performed in England.  It was the first drama written by a Canadian to be presented in England.  Unfortunately, Aikins was not able to make the long journey oversees to see his work performed. This was very frustrating for him and as the months rolled-on an idea started to form. Aspiring young students could come to Naramata to pick fruit in the daytime, and then in the evening they would study and rehearse plays.

The idea took off, and there was a great amount of energy and enthusiasm at the Aikin’s orchard. An opening day was set, and in 1920, Prime Minister Arthur Meighen traveled by train from Ottawa to cut the ribbon at the Canadian Home Theatre, a 100 seat performance hall on the second floor of the Aikins fruit packing shed (now home to Van Westen Vineyards storage facility)

For the next two years, the theatre was the centre of entertainment in the community, and drew audiences from up and down the valley. Out of town audiences mostly arrived by boat to the wharf in Naramata village. Neighbours and friends lent their acting and musical talents to the productions, built the sets, and made the costumes. Farm labour took part in some of the earliest productions. Aikins later remarked about his concept of young orchard workers arriving to learn about theatre: “The trouble was that the ones who could act, couldn’t pick the fruit; and the ones who could pick, couldn’t act!”

One Toronto reviewer stated, “the theatre’s sophisticated lighting effects are not surpassed anywhere in North America.” The lighting was wired into a generator. The generator was powered by the farm tractor. The theatre had the distinction of several national milestones: the first Greek drama presented in Canada; the first passion play ever given in Canada; the first ‘dome horizon,’ a form of cyclorama to be installed in the Canadian theatre.

After several years of operating to wide acclaim, the theatre closed due to a plummet in fruit prices. (The Aikins orcharding operation subsidized the Home Theatre and regrettably a decision had to be made to close the shows.

After that, Mr. Aikins continued to work in theatre, with stints in Toronto and Hollywood. As for the packing house theatre, throughout the 1930s, Naramatians played badminton in the otherwise empty space. Mr. Aikins used the assembled costumes and props to direct productions with local school kids.


The summer of 1917 was a scorcher on the Naramata Bench. Young fruit trees were suffering in the heat. Carroll made the decision to board the Kettle Valley Railway and go to Vancouver to search for something that could help his withering trees. He came across an old horse drawn fire engine that was for sale.  He paid $600 for it, with that thought that its pump could be used to draw water from the lake to satisfy the thirsty trees.  The fire engine arrived on the train, with its brass bell shining in the afternoon sun.  It took some ingenuity, but Aikins was able to join enough pipes to enable the fire engine to pump water up the hill to the orchards. This enabled Aikins to put ten acres under irrigation at a given time.