Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Proactive approach helps farmer stay ahead of tree blight

                                               Hazelnut Seedlings

When news came that the Eastern Filbert Blight had reached farms in the Fraser Valley in 2005, BC hazelnut growers like Peter Andres of Poplar Grove Arbour in Agassiz knew they had to act. The blight, originally introduced by imported trees from Oregon to the Northwestern US, does not attack the hazelnut fruit but harms the tree itself. "It's not in my orchard yet, but it's in orchards 0.3km away", says Andres. The good news is that the blight only attacks European varieties of hazelnuts, leaving species native to the Americas relatively untouched. "With replanting we can be proactive as well as adapting to new realities in farming techniques", says the hazelnut farmer, whose been a vendor at the Vancouver Markets since 1998.

At Poplar Grove, Andres has already removed 1 acre of trees, with another two set to be cleared next year. About 600 trees of 3 new varieties will be replanted as part of a research project Andres is leading on behalf of the BC Hazelnut Industry. The new varieties were developed in Oregon, but could not be brought to Canada as nursery trees due to government restrictions. "We had to import phyto-sanitary leaf tissue, and then we got the tissue growing into trees", says Andres. This was no small feat for the farmers but was aided in part by the Investment Agriculture Foundation. "The new trees are smaller and bear more fruit", says Andres. "They're also better tasting, will ripen earlier, and have less of the brown skin, which many customers ask for".

The new hazelnuts should be in full commercial production in about 5 years, with small quantities available for market in 3-4 years. In the meantime, Poplar Grove Arbour will continue to provide their organic range of hazelnut products, including raw and roasted nuts, hazelnut butter and oil, a high protein hazelnut powder, and a hazelnut skin care cream. You can find them this summer at the East Vancouver, Kitsilano,  and West End markets as well as other markets in the Lower Mainland.

                            Clearing the land at Poplar Grove Arbour

                             10 year old orchard of new hazelnut trees

Friday, 27 May 2011

Spotlight On: Applebarn Pumpkin Farm

                                    Greenhouse with apple blossoms

If your aren't familiar with the Applebarn yet,  you've probably at least seen their stall at the Winter Market or Trout Lake. It's the one being mobbed by early-rising market shoppers hungry for spring produce such as green beans, peppers, and tomatoes. The Applebarn, largely greenhouse producers based in Abbotsford, bring eggplant, mini cukes, and green lettuce to the markets as early as mid-February. But they're not just spring chickens - they sell an abundance of tree fruit and berries, ground crops, and preserves throughout the rest of the year. We asked farm manager Joslin Clarkson to tell us how they do it...

How long has the Applebarn been a farm? The Applebarn business has been operational for 21 years, but owner Loren Taves is a 3rd generation farmer in Canada with apple growing roots that date back several generations in Russia.

How many people work on the farm? Our staff numbers range from 2-25, depending on the time of the year.

How does the greenhouse operation work? Our greenhouses are hydroponic, meaning the plants are grown without soil in a mineral solution that provides the right amount of nutrients for a high quality result. The greenhouses operate year round using natural gas, with a system in place to recover a large portion of the carbon dioxide that gets sent back to the plants to reduce emissions. We have an integrated pest management system that uses good bugs to combat bad bugs, reducing the need for insecticides.

How far do you travel to market, and how many market do you attend? Our furthest market is Whistler, which takes us about 2.5 hours each way. We attend Trout Lake, Kitsilano, and Main Street Station, along with several other markets in the Lower Mainland each week.

You run a lot of school tours and activities for families. Would you say you have an emphasis on education at the Applebarn? Our activities are a combination of wholesome fun and education - we have apple and pumpkin life-cycle wheels, and a beehive that kids can look at through a window and search for the queen bee! We teach them about the important role that bees play on our farm.

Do you have a CSA, or any other programs that market shoppers can get involved with? We're part of a buyers club called Van Valley. It's similar to a CSA where members sign up for a box by paying in advance for produce that will be received over the season, but they assume less risk because there's more producers involved. Along with Rondriso Farms (also a VFM vendor), we organize this box with a team of associate farmers to bring our customers incredible produce.

For more information on the buyers club and other exciting Applebarn programs, visit their website at http://www.applebarn.ca/

   Loren's son Denzie, picking peppers in the greenhouse