Friday, August 10, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1, Vergers Lussier and Stevenson

Last stops on Day 1 were the orchards of Gérard Lussier in Rockburn and Bill Stevenson in Franklin. At Lussiers, run by Gérard and Paul (pictured below with their friend Win Cowgill), we were warmly greeted by much of the family (including the women!) who were all clearly proud of their orchards! Also, at Lussiers, Nathalie Tanguay (left, with the Lussiers), the orchard's private pest management advisor, explained some of their pest management challenges. The Lussiers hopped on the Honeycrisp bandwagon 8 years ago, and are continuously planting and growing high-quality Honeycrisp to meet demand despite it's difficult horticultural requirements. Pictured far below is a 2012 planting of Honeycrisp with the characteristic telephone pole mega-support system often seen in Quebec. The Lussiers have also had to install deer fence to keep their valuable new plantings protected from unwanted 'pruning!'
Gérard and Paul Lussier with friend Win Cowgill (click here for large image)
Honeycrisp planted in 2012 at Lussiers (click here for large image)

Very last stop for IFTA 2012 Quebec Day 1 was Stevenson Orchards. Bill, recently retired IFTA Director and his Fred -- well, there is so much good to say about them! Including the fact that Bill was a principle instigator and oh-so helped organize this Tour. We enjoyed an explanation of their maple syrup making (they have 4,500 taps); their premium stem-clipped Honeycrisp growing; both retail and wholesale selling; UV-sanitized fresh cider making; and their membership in the SweeTango club. One thing you could definitely say about Stevenson Orchards, all was top-notch. Although not mentioned yet, the larger Quebec orchards such as Stevenson are starting to use platforms in their dwarf orchards to increase labor efficiency. Here we saw a brand new Orsi platform being demonstrated in a SweeTango orchard.

Orsi orchard platform in SweeTango block at Stevenson Orchards (click here for large image)

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1 cont. Cidrerie Du Minot

Although we had sampled some of Quebec's wonderful ciders during the pre-tour social on Wednesday evening, now we got a chance to visit one of Quebec's outstanding cider makers, Cidrerie Du Minot in Hemmingford. (We've been in Hemmingford for awhile now.) We sampled and bought (left) some of their gold medal winning ciders. The Demoy family, owners of Du Minot, in addition to the cider mill manage nearly 130 acres of orchard, the whole of which goes to cider production. Apples grown include McIntosh, Cortland, Lobo, Melba, Empire, Liberty, Trent, Geneva, and -- that favorite cider apple -- golden russet. The cider press at Du Minot is state-of-art and efficient at turning the dollar value up on apples that come out as juice and are fermented into cider.

Golden Russet apples are finicky to grow, but prized for making cider

Modern cider press at Cidrerie Du Minot (click here for large image)

IFTA 2012 Quebec -- more Day 1

Rounding out the morning of Day 1we stopped to see a new field being prepped for planting apple trees at D.M. Boileau Orchards, Inc., also in Havelock. One of several family members running the orchards and packing facility, Danny Boileau (left) told us how they want to plant 5,000 trees per year over the next five years, and with his agricultural/business education, realizes the importance of getting an intensive orchard off to a good start. Here, they are incorporating LOTS of manure and using green cover crops for good soil health and tilth before planting apples. But, growers are very conscious about phosphorous levels, in fact soil tests are mandatory and they are prohibited from applying too much P to protect water quality.

After lunch, we visited Tim Petch of Petch Orchards in Hemmingford. Tim's father, Bob Petch is fondly remembered as  IFTA Director from Quebec, and going back a long ways (1950's), Bob encouraged a shift to agri-tourism and Pick-Your-Own in the Hemmingford area. Tim (right) with his son Justin now orchard 85 acres, including this new planting of Kiku® (cv. 'Brak') Fuji (below). Tim is also experimenting with some Bi-axe trees to keep planting cost down while maintaining productivity. Once comprised primarily of McIntosh, the orchards are being replanted/expanded to include Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, and Fuji.

Click here for large image

Thursday, August 9, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1 cont.

After touring the Applesnax/Leahy Orchards processing plant -- they have a 70% market share in Canada for packaged applesauce, slices, and baby food, no pictures allowed -- we moved on to the M.J. Bourdeau Orchards in Havelock (about 35 miles southwest of Montreal, near the NY border), where Mario returned to the farm in 1990 which was then mostly standard and semi-dwarf apple trees. Now, with his son and wife, Mario farms 57 acres of apples in two location, and they have a large sugarbush. (A sugarbush are sugar maple trees tapped for sap to produce maple syrup.) We visited a 12 acre new dwarf planting, where standard trees were removed, and pearl millet was planted to help ameliorate replant disease. Above left, Paul Emile Yelle (our host and tour guide) discusses with Mario some of the finer points of training these Rogers McIntosh/B.9 to the Solaxe (below).
Click here for larger image

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

IFTA 2012 Quebec - Day 1

Bonjour from Quebec, Canada. Well, a little apres the fact, so hello. But, I was on the IFTA Study Tour to the Province of Quebec, Canada on July 26-27, 2012. App. 180 of us (three busloads!) were treated to good French-Canadian hospitality, including lots of cider (yes, the alcoholic kind, vs. fresh or sweet cider), a classic maple sugar house supper, and much aménité. Beginning with this post, I will bring you image and brief commentaire from each visite with the Quebec producteur/verger (orchard). First stop, the IRDA Research Orchard in Saint-Bruno, just east of Montreal (skyline above left). I was anxious to see the overhead spray system developed by my colleague Vincent Philion (below left), who I know quite well from an annual pest management meeting in Vermont each fall. Philion explained the organic pest control strategy being deployed through the system, which included phopshite (or was it bicarbonate?) and sulfur (for scab control) and Surround (kaolin clay) for insect control. But he noted the inclusion of Surround resulted in poor scab control (below right), likely a by-product of interaction with the fungicides. Hmm...