Orchards win top apple prizes

Summerland apples captured top spots in this year’s National Apple Competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Summerland apples captured top spots including Champion and Reserve Champion in this year’s National Apple Competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (RAWF) in Toronto.

Devin Jell of Sun-Oka Fruit Farms in Summerland won the Championship for New Varieties (for Aurora) and the Reserve Championship in Commercial Varieties.

He took first in Commercial Varieties, Gala Class; first in New Varieties, Ambrosia Class; first in New Varieties, Aurora Golden Gala Class; and first in best collection of five varieties.

Sun-Oka Fruit Farms is a fifth generation family farm. Devin and Janine Jell manage 27 acres of high-density apple orchards, mostly planted with newer varieties such as Ambrosia, Aurora Golden Gala, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Royal Gala.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the family’s orchard operation which was first homesteaded and planted by Janine’s great-great-grandfather, James Gartrell, in 1887. It was one of the first commercial orchards established in the Okanagan Valley.

Jell observed, “Orchard practices have changed a lot in 125 years, but our family still takes great pride in working the land and producing fruit of excellent quality.”

In the National Apple Competition, Sun-Oka entered Ambrosia, Aurora Golden Gala, Honeycrisp, Gala and a collection of five varieties.

Billy and Shauna Boerboom of The Apple Barn/Windmill Orchards won Reserve Champion in Heritage Varieties, for Honeycrisp; second in Commercial Varieties, Gala Class; second in Commercial Varieties, Spartan Class; second in Commercial Varieties, Golden Delicious Class; third in Heritage Varieties, Other; and first in New Varieties, Honeycrisp.

Windmill Orchards is located in Summerland.

Billy has been farming for 25 years and they also operate the Windmill Garden Centre and The Apple Barn, where they sell their produce. They farm on 13 acres and they grow 16 varieties of apples, along with cherries and pears.

Windmill Farm entered Gala, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Spartan, Granny Smith and a collection of five varieties).

Lane and Ryan Mitchell of the Mitchell Family Orchard in Summerland took Reserve Champion for Heritage Varieties, Other, for Granny Smith. The Mitchells also won second for Heritage Varieties, Other, Granny Smith; and second for best collection of five varieties.

Mitchell Family Orchard is a nine-acre farm. They grow Gala, Ambrosia, Granny Smith, Spartan, Aurora Golden Gala and a few peaches, plums and nectarines and have been farming for only two years.

“My son and his family along with my wife and I bought all bought this orchard together. It is a retirement project for my wife and I, and a future investment / way of life for my son and his family when he retires from the RCMP. It is a steep learning curve for me as I have never farmed before but it is very satisfying work.”

Mitchell Family Orchard entered Gala, Ambrosia, Aurora Golden Gala, Spartan, Granny Smith and a collection of five varieties.

Gord Shandler of Summerland, second in New Varieties, Ambrosia Class; and second in New Varieties, Other, for Salish.

Shandler grew up on an orchard and then went to college a couple of times, studying forestry and environmental quality control.

He has been farming for 34 years and is active in promoting new varieties.

He has six acres in super spindle, with 2,500 to 3,000 trees/acre, and currently grows Salish, Ambrosia and Gala.

Shandler entered Gala, Salish (SPA 493) and Ambrosia in the National Apple Competition.

Frank Fenwick of Summerland entered Aurora Golden Gala, Ambrosia and Spartan. Fenwick Farms is a 13-acre farm located in Summerland. Frank and Louise currently grow Ambrosia, Aurora Golden Gala and Spartan.

“This farm is a third generation farm started by my grandfather, who come over from Scotland in approximately 1905. My father and his sister continued farming until Louise and I took over the operation 38 years ago. Over this period of time the farm has had a variety of crops and livestock including hay, various soft fruits, chickens, cattle and horses.”

Richard and Denise MacDonald, MacDonald Farms, Summerland  entered Aurora Golden Gala, Ambrosia and Salish. Richard and Denise have 22 acres with nine to 10 acres  currently in apple production.

They grow Jonagold, Spartan, Aurora, Fuji, Gala and Nicola, plus a few trees of newer or unusual varieties.

Richard received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture from the University of B.C. and then ended up in the tree fruit industry in the Okanagan where he has been farming for 30 years.

Growers from British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec entered some of their best apples to the competition by submitting them in five distinct categories: heritage, new and commercial varieties, as well as best collection of any five varieties, and heaviest/most unusual shaped apple.

Winning apples are displayed at the fair after being judged by John Gardner, a retired apple specialist from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.

The judging of the apples takes place the day prior to opening of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and results are officially announced the first day of the fair, held in the heart of the largest urban centre in Canada. RAWF celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.