Avalon Orchards: Organic apples and so much more

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Mary E. Wales –  Twenty-two years ago Gaye Trombley had a vision. And, even though some people thought her to be somewhat fanatical when she told them her idea, she forged ahead anyways.

Gaye wanted to have an organic apple orchard. She did her research, seeking advice from agricultural researchers at Purdue University and the Kentville Nova Scotia Research Station before deciding what apple varieties to plant. Her orchard has been planned for over twenty years and she purposely chose disease resistant cultivars so that growing apples without the use of pesticides would be easier.

“Right from the start I saw a real advantage in planting disease resistant cultivars,” she notes. 

Certified by Pro-Cert Inc, Avalon Orchards consists of an astonishing 10, 000 apple trees spread over 50 acres. Over 14 varieties are planted in the orchard, with names such as Red Spy, Nova Scotia Macintosh, Liberty and Freedom. The orchard is still expanding and two new varieties were recently planted.

One of the unique things about orchards which sets them apart from other types of agriculture is the long term planning process required. Once a ‘whip’, or a small 1-2 year old tree is planted, it takes around 5 years before fruit is produced and harvest can take place.

“I really had to sit down and plan things out. I was trying a new approach and at the time there was only one other organic apple grower in the province who I could ask for advice,” states Gaye.

That apple grower was Alvin Filsinger, a prominent organic apple grower who passed away in 2010. Alvin is described by others as a groundbreaking pioneer who built his southern Ontario farm into a major organic apple growing, packing and processing business, known today as ‘Filsinger Organic Foods’.

Today, organic orchards in Ontario are extremely few and far between and much of the organic fruits and vegetables consumed in Ontario are imported. According to Gaye, organic farming requires a significantly higher amount of physical labour as synthetic chemicals cannot be used to control pests and diseases.

Avalon Orchards offers U-PICK apples from August to November as well as other locally produced products such as vegetables, beef, jams and honey which are sold on-farm. They also produce fresh apple cider weekly and are introducing their own organic vinegar this year. There are also walking trails on the farm to enrich the apple picking experience and group tours are offered. The orchard’s products are also carried by the GTA-based home delivery service Mama Earth Organics, and available at selected natural health food stores in Toronto.

For more information contact Gaye at 705-458-9902 or visit her website.

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