Last year’s AppleFest was the first of what I hope will be an annual event in Salmon Arm – an event to celebrate the rich apple growing heritage of the Shuswap.
Representing Hanna and Hanna Orchards, I was there sharing samples of over 20 varieties we grow to show the range of flavours and uses of this versatile fruit.
I was also fielding questions about fruit growing, one of which was whether or not we grow organically. We are not organic; we use an integrated-pesticide-management approach, which means we start with observation and monitoring to determine if there is a problem, and only when or where needed will use the most benign controls available.
If, however, these control measures are not sufficient, we will use a more potent product.
Sometimes these products are organic (even organic products can be toxic but the residual activity in the environment is very short) and other times synthetic controls are used. We believe this is a very responsible way to grow a good product, while creating as little impact on the environment as possible.
Unfortunately, apples have a reputation as one of the top 10 most pesticide-laden fruits available and when we’re talking about apples imported from other areas of the world, this is probably true.
In British Columbia however, the successful institution of the Sterile Insect Release (S.I.R) program (which you may remember was paid for, in part, by your taxes) and a Canada-wide ban on the use of the most toxic coddling-moth control, means that B.C. apples – even when not certified organic – are grown cleanly.
Insist on B.C. grown and look for the B.C. leaf on the fruit you purchase in grocery stores.
Where possible buy your apples from a responsible, progressive local grower – a grower who farms and lives surrounded by his orchard, who lives in your community and will stand behind the product he grows and sells.
Studies done in this country have shown that if consumers supported the concept of locally-grown and only purchased Canadian-grown apples, Canada could be self-supporting in apple production.
This would mean what is now a dying industry could again become a thriving, healthy one.
Having been involved in the fruit industry for over 40 years, I have to say that at no time has it ever been an easy way to earn a living.
We have in that time made many changes in how we manage the orchard, planted new varieties to stay abreast of market trends and endeavored in every way possible to grow a first-class product.
This spring we tore out our Red Delicious trees – even though our fruit ranked at the top of all the Red Delicious grown in the province – because we got only 12 cents a pound, while the cost to produce them is over 20 cents a pound.
One day soon, when atmospheric venting properties are favourable, we’ll have a huge bonfire and that will be the end of our Red Delicious trees.
In the fruit industry, the grower’s income is what’s left over after the fruit has sold and all the middlemen, those handling, marketing, shipping or selling the fruit, have been paid.
Often, as in the case of the Red Delicious, that amount is not enough to cover the cost of production. That’s why many growers have farm-gate sales where the money they get from the consumer is theirs with no middlemen to pay.
The prices we charge in our market, for instance, are competitive – almost always less than what you’ll pay in stores or other fruit markets – yet they’re significantly higher than what is earned through the fruit-marketing system.
“Salmon Arm grown” still means that we, unlike some other growers, grow our apples without irrigation which makes the flavour more intense and the keeping quality generally better because cells are stronger and not bloated with excess water. Support locally-grown – buy Salmon Arm-grown apples.
-Harriet Hanna is a gardening expert and an owner of Hanna Orchards and Farm Market.