Salt Spring Apple Festival Cancelled for this year
Crop failure cancels Salt Spring Apple Festival
Harry Burton as Captain Apple at the 2011 Salt Spring Apple Festival. Burton will have to keep the costume in storage for this year.
Driftwood file photo by Derrick Lundy
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By Elizabeth Nolan - Gulf Islands Driftwood
Published: August 14, 2012 5:00 PM
Updated: August 14, 2012 5:11 PM
The famed Salt Spring Island Organic Apple Festival has been called off for 2012 with most growers reporting extremely low numbers of fruit in their trees.
“Generally the growers here have had a very poor crop,” festival organizer Harry Burton said.
“We’d probably struggle to get 200 varieties for Fulford Hall, when normally we have 350. In fact, I’d be surprised if we’d get 150.”
Burton figures he’ll have enough of a few varieties to sell customers at his normally prolific Apple Luscious Organic Orchard, although some trees have just a few apples or none at all. This includes the Gravenstein, which Burton says is Salt Spring apple connoisseurs’ favourite variety, and normally a bountiful producer.
Strange spring weather patterns experienced across Canada this year have meant devastating losses in several communities. In Ontario, unseasonably high temperatures in February and March brought trees into blossom early, only to be killed by April’s frost. The Ontario Apple Growers Association estimates 88 per cent of the province’s crop was lost.
Here in B.C., some Okanagan growers lost otherwise healthy fruit when a hail storm damaged apples in late July. Coastal weather was even less favourable, with the third long cool spring in a row meaning many blossoms weren’t pollinated.
Burton said the local crop failure shows people the effects of climate change firsthand. He also noted the “double whammy” produced by adding poor weather to this year’s tent caterpillar population boom.
“Most of the trees are just getting their leaves now,” he noted.
The festival would have been held on Sept. 30.
Salt Spring farmer Bree Eagle said although the poor weather has negatively impacted the vegetable crops at Bright Farm, the operation she runs with her father Charlie Eagle, cool temperatures didn’t appear to affect the apples. Tent caterpillars, however, may have accounted for as much as 50 per cent crop loss.
“The weather was really fine. We had a really good fruit set in the spring and it looked like it was setting up to be a bumper year,” Eagle said, explaining a lot of young apples subsequently dropped because there were no leaves left to protect them.
“The orchard in spring looked like the middle of winter.”
In light of a disappointing season for most participants (small producers in the Isabella Point area appear to be the exception), local growers agreed they didn’t want to present a mediocre festival to the public — but they definitely intend to return next year. In some ways having a year off from producing fruit is actually good for the trees because they can take a rest.
“It will come back to normal. And we’re hoping the spring will return to a little more of what we’re used to,” Burton said.
While it’s an unusual turn of events to see Burton actively campaigning people not to attend the festival, he said there’s lots of apple activity to be happy about until next fall rolls around. Organizers have posted around 1,000 photos of last year’s festival, which can be viewed online at www.saltspringapplefestival.org
Another coming treat to whet festival-goers’ appetites is a new poster created by artist Adrienne Aikins and sponsored through 2011 apple festival proceeds. The poster features favourite apples of Salt Spring — and 60 varieties selected by local growers managed to make the cut.
The poster is now being printed. Sale locations are to be announced.