Good Fruit Grower

April 1

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Page 28 of 55 GOOD FRUIT GROWER APRIL 1, 2015 29 ITED worst in ten years. On the plus side, temperatures were 30 degrees warmer than in the frigid Great Lakes region further west. Just as if it were summer, six buses filled with grow- ers from countries around the world made their way up driveways growers had carved through the deep snow. The snow wasn't giving up, either. It was getting deeper. About six new inches fell one afternoon during the tour. While everybody seemed to pretend it wasn't happening, they clustered in a straw-bale storage barn at Waldo and Judy Walsh's Birchleigh Farm and heard about—but never did see—the orchards. The big change since 2009 has been the triumph of Nova Scotia's image as a producer of the best Honeycrisp apples anywhere. During the five days of meetings—the first one devoted to a Honeycrisp Intensive Workshop— Honeycrisp apples were freely available, and they were big, red, crunchy, juicy, and still surprisingly flavorful in late February. The Nova Scotians not only grow them well, but have learned how to store them in CA (con- trolled-atmosphere) and still pack out a high percentage of fruit free of bitter pit, internal breakdown, greasiness, rots, and other Honeycrisp problems. At Stephen and Michael Van Meekeren's storage and packing plant, the brothers were bringing apples out of storage that looked ready to package even before they were washed, waxed, and sorted. Van Meekeren Farms is the second largest apple packer in Nova Scotia, packing about a half million bushels a year. About half of the prov- ince's two million bushels of apples are grown, packaged, and sold through the Scotian Gold Cooperative. Tight industry Nova Scotia's industry is relatively small and com- pacted into the Annapolis Valley. It is very much organized around the co-op, Scotian Gold, and its fruit advisor, Larry Lutz. As a result, the orchards are pretty uniform as most of the growers use the same rootstocks, plant the same A wintertime tour From the first stop at Gerry VanOostrum's farm, it was clear the IFTA winter conference orchard tour was going to be a chilly experience. PHOTOS BY RICHARD LEHNERT/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Eisses Farms is said to have the best soil for apple trees in the entire province. John Eisses received IFTA's Grower of the Year Award. Yields in his orchard are consistently high. Visitors saw his first effort at converting tall spindle trees into fruiting walls using a hedger. His son Peter is at right. Lisa Jenereaux was a star of the show, the IFTA board member who led the team organizing the tour. She showed visitors her planting of pears—including the fire blight-resistant Harovin Sundown—growing in a fruiting wall composed of bi-axis trees on a trellis. Growers who open their orchards to IFTA tours need to have thick skins, because they'll get plenty of advice. But, usually, they want that. Andy Parker (center) asked for help pruning this young Ambrosia planting, which was hit hard by fire blight last year. Hank Markgraf from the Okanagan Tree Fruit Company, and a member of the IFTA board, offers his advice.

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