alive logo

A Pioneer Apple Farmer


A Pioneer Apple Farmer

The severe Ontario winters in the mid-1930s killed our family orchard, so for years I went to school with no apples. What a hardship! Even at a young age, I knew that apples were very important to our familyâ??s survival..

The severe Ontario winters in the mid-1930s killed our family orchard, so for years I went to school with no apples. What a hardship! Even at a young age, I knew that apples were very important to our family’s survival.

Then in 1939, my great-uncle bought a small orchard in Burlington and needed help with harvesting. From 1942 onwards, I had the full-time responsibility of taking care of that orchard. Eventually, I bought it, but I knew it was necessary to make some changes.

For instance, I knew that some of the chemicals we used were toxic and produced long-lasting effects. We had to wear respirators and protective clothing while handling them. The chemicals were killing the young birds in the orchard. After seeing the effect that these products were having on the wildlife, I decided that there had to be a better and safer way to grow apples.

Eventually, my family and I returned home to Ayton to start anew, planting 20 acres of new apple trees. Luckily, I had connections with a number of people who had the same idea as me. So while our young orchard was growing, my family had the opportunity to travel and observe orchards in Canada and the United States and discuss our problems with other organic growers.

In 1954, we went to Florida and met Dr Charles Northern, who had done about 10 years of research on organic growing. He had concluded that soil building must be one of the basics of food building and necessary to accomplish healthy human building.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, we shipped our apples by rail to all provinces and states. By 1972, however, rail lines had stopped running in many areas so we had to discontinue shipping. Many people drove long distances to get apples from our Ayton orchard.

By the late 1980s, people were harder to satisfy. They wanted large picture-perfect apples, so we had to sell most of our crop for processing into apple juice and jams. Then certification came along, giving us a list of dos and don’ts. That was good, but there was still little organized support–and there remains little organized support–for organic farmers and the problems we face. I have spent thousands of dollars on my own research through trial and error to find the safest and most effect products available to me. There is no government research being done for organic growers. We are on our own.

Marketing Organics

Organic apples usually do not have the picture-perfect appearance of commercial apples found in local chain stores, so many distributors have shied away from handling organic apples at all. Some insects may nibble on the skin of apples as they grow, leaving a little scar; scabs or fungus occur due to frequent showers of rain, also marking a little spot on the apple. These apples are still good to eat. Their flavor and nourishing qualities don’t vary because of appearance. If farmers must disregard 100 percent of blemished apples, we would not earn enough money to pay our way and would have to process all our crop! The public can assist us by being less particular about the cosmetic appearance of apples.

In the meantime, we are losing the battle against human disease. What can we do about it? We need more vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. If we had learned to determine the nutrient density of agricultural crops when modern agriculture began, agriculture would have taken a whole different direction. Our forefathers did not spray for pests. Only since 1910 has any spraying been done. In the last few years, regular commercial apple growers have become concerned because their chemicals are not working as well as they used to. Diseases and insects are becoming immune to the chemicals.

Government, farmers, retailers and consumers all need to recognize organic agriculture as the only way to go. I have not given up. Since 1939, I have grown 60 crops of apples and I am still learning. Experience is the best teacher. Many people may ask why I still grow apples and the only reason that I can give is that I love them!



10 Quick and Healthy Plant-Based Lunch Recipes

10 Quick and Healthy Plant-Based Lunch Recipes

Make your mid-day meal veggie forward and filling

Michelle von Hahn

Michelle von Hahn