We reached out to a few Ambrosia apple farmers to get an idea of what is going at the orchards this month, and how COVID-19 is impacting their operations. Doug Boult, Wes Burdick, Shane Witzke and Adrian Arts were kind enough to offer their insight. Here, in their own words, are their answers:
Q: What’s keeping you busy now?
Doug: This month is being used up by cleaning up the orchard after pruning, spraying, getting irrigation ready and generally preparing for a very busy spray season from mid April to mid May.
Wes: Finish pruning, weed control, rodent control, irrigation will be turning on soon, water line repairs from winter damage, early sprays to control pests.
Shane: For the month of April I’m finishing pruning, mulching prunings, Purchasing products needed for spring sprays and fertilizers, calibrating sprayer, cleaning up the farm yard, starting to put spring protectant products on newly forming leaflets, applying ground fertilizer, removing mouse and gopher damaged trees, trapping of gophers begins, clean up trees that were removed in the fall after harvest, work fields that are planned to planted next year.
Adrian: Finishing up on the pruning, early nutrient sprays, removing some old trees in one of my orchards and preparing for a 2021 replant.
When is your busiest time?
Doug: We generally have three very busy times: spring spraying, apple hand thinning in June, and Ambrosia harvest early to mid Oct.
Wes: At bloom and at harvest, although summer is busy most of the time.
Shane: Day time…. haha Sorry, I would say spring and fall are normally busiest but I generally have something to do year round either in the orchard or in the shop.
Adrian: Usually mid April getting equipment ready for the season, July-August for
cherry harvest and Mid September-October for Ambrosia apple harvest .
How has COVID-19 impacted your farm?
Doug: So far Covid 19 has only been a minor inconvenience with ordering and picking up of farm supplies. The local businesses are treating us very well and safely and there has been no shortages of needed products……at least for me. The bigger issue will be in June when farm labourers will be arriving. I will have protocols in place for isolating and social distancing however this will be extremely difficult depending on the situation at that time.
I don’t believe I will have an issue with help……I have had contact with a lot of former employees who state they are coming back this year. The issue will be if there are inter-Provincial barriers.
I am small (10-12employees), it will be the bigger guys…..cherry picking especially that will potentially have issues.
Wes: Concerns if we will have enough workers to get all the work completed especially during harvest. We count on foreign workers and even workers from other provinces to get the work done.
Shane: Currently operations haven’t been effected directly however acquiring parts and products takes longer. There is uncertainty in regards to foreign workers but latest news is plans are being worked on.
Adrian: So far no effect. Will need to see how the market holds up regarding the demand and price for crops
What would you like consumers to understand about farming?
Doug: I would like consumers to understand that products don’t magically appear on the store shelves. Stores are not where their food comes from. It takes a small army to satisfy the needs of the consumer, however without the farmer growing and labourers harvesting, truckers-trucking etc. those shelves would be empty. While farming is a business and should be treated as such, it is a labour of love to most who farm.
Wes: Buy local and support this way of life.
Shane: High quality produce is available but it costs more to produce and generally foreign markets pay better than domestic. If they truly want the best, consumers have to ask produce managers for it and expect to pay more for it.
Adrian: We have chosen the long hours, the hard work. It’s a very rewarding career if you enjoy problem solving and time outside in all weather. But the return on investment is declining while the cost of production is rising. This is forcing many farmers to leave the industry. Consumers can help by sourcing Canadian products, regardless if it is a bit more expensive than import products
For more information on these, and other growers, visit https://ambrosiaapples.ca/videos-meet-the-growers/.