Apple season in the Valley is always a perfect storm of great local produce and the influx of tourists coming to see what the region has to offer. After the 2021 harvest was heavily affected by the late spring frost, the hope was that this season would be better. It certainly delivered on that wish.
Michelle Blair of Vergers Blair Orchards says, “The apple crop this year was above-average in both quality and quantity, due to an abundant blossom that we had in the spring and consistent rainfall throughout the growing season.” However, it was not a perfect season by any means. An unseasonably warm September did cause a lot of apples to fall prematurely.
Jeff Blair explains that “It was very hot in September which caused the apples to ripen fast, especially the MacIntosh variety. Therefore, a lot of them ended up going on the ground and [getting] soft and it ended up being a problem.” Normally, the cool September evenings and fall temperatures work in the apples’ favour; however, heat causes them to soften and fall to the ground. That being said, J. Blair says, “It was a much better year” in comparison to 2021 and called this season a “bumper year.” The fact that so many apples grew actually caused the trees to be weighed down, which also contributed to the number of apples that dropped before being picked.
This was the first year that Vergers Blair Orchards was able to be open at full capacity since the beginning of the pandemic. It was also the busiest season they’ve had yet. “Every year the tourist business goes up and up and up. It always increases by about 10 per cent each year.” J. Blair explains that there are multiple factors for the increase: “More people have discovered the area. More people want to shop locally. More people want to take their kids out for a cheap family day instead of spending hundreds of dollars.” They were visited by tourists and locals alike.
What was surprising about this year is that every single day felt like a weekend. “Usually the huge crowds are on the weekends, and they still were, but this year we were extremely busy all week,” J. Blair says. This could have been due to local tourism rising, but he also adds, “It’s hard to say how much of that is attributable to the weather, because it was beautiful weather right into October.”
Looking ahead to next year, it is unclear what the season will be like. J. Blair says, “The fact that there was a big, big crop of apples this year points the finger to it not being as big next year, because it might not have as many blossoms, but you never really know. You can tell more in the spring… It depends on Mother Nature.”
Though they may not know what the weather will be like, M. Blair says, “I think that the agritourism in this area is consistently growing. Each year we have new families visit us with promises to return.”