Our member-growers continually strive to update and increase their production through the removal of inefficient trees and obsolete varieties.
Back in the early days, Norfolk County’s farmers maintained relatively small-acreage orchards, growing a wide variety of apples on large trees. Through the years, apple production has been refined considerably. In general, today’s orchards are larger, the varieties are fewer and the trees are decidedly smaller. The biggest difference between then and now, however, is that today’s yield is much greater and this is due to a host of advancements in our Association’s industry.
The very way we plant trees today has changed. Dwarfing-type rootstock trees are budded – mainly to Empire, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Northern Spy, Honeycrisp, Gala and Ambrosia. High-density plantings are initiated and new cultivars are seriously considered with some trial plantings. Our total tree population exceeds 286,000, of which 95% are budded to dwarf-type rootstock. Our member-growers continually strive to update and increase their production through the removal of inefficient trees and obsolete varieties.
Orchard Visits and Field Studies
The Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association has established a quality assurance program to continually upgrade the products and services it supplies to its customers and members each step of the way from the orchards to the store shelves. Our fruit is grown under an Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) in conjunction with the Horticultural Experimental Station in Simcoe.
We have always been at the forefront in recognizing the benefits of an IPM program, initiating it in 1979. This intensive program enables growers to have each 20-acre block of their orchard monitored as opposed to selected-site monitoring that was supplied by the regional program.
The Association’s quality-control staff visits the orchards throughout the growing season to monitor crop development. Summer scouts are collectively hired each year to provide information for growers to implement their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs on their farms. Each grower receives an immediate written report for each monitored site to ensure that they can implement a crop-protection program that is effective from horticultural, environmental and economic standpoints. This allows the targeted application of crop protection materials in the most efficient and judicial manner.
Fruit Monitoring and Testing
Prior to picking, samples of the fruit are tested for the internal ethylene concentration (the plant hormone that causes fruit to ripen) to determine the optimum time to harvest. Ethylene is an indicator of fruit maturity and is used to initiate monitoring of the apples.
Once picked, the fruit continues to be monitored for internal ethylene, along with pressure, sugar/starch ratio and soluble solids to evaluate the proper storage time. This enables the Association to market its members’ fruit effectively and ensure that its customers enjoy quality apples throughout the growing season.
After the apples are transferred from storage to the packing facility, they are again continually monitored as they are packed for the consumer market. Shelf-life analysis is performed so that only premium quality fruit goes to the market.