Early in September we visited Blake’s Apple Orchard near Brussels to learn about the apple harvest. Blake’s have a variety of trees that mature from early September until late October. Early varieties include Paula Red and ginger gold.
This 14-acre orchard is operated by David and Karen Griffiths. It’s been in operation since 1981 (33 years). I asked David what is the most challenging aspects of his business and he replied that the paperwork required by Foodland Ontario to certify his product as Ontario-based is intense.
At this farm, the picking is done by Carribean workers from Trinidad who are hired for six to eight weeks annually (since 1987). Staff also includes two local County residents who assist with the packing as well as six local students who enjoy part-time employment.
Blake’s Orchards implement an integrated pest management system. There are three grades, with third grade being shipped to Wellesley for pressing for apple cider.
Dave’s favourite is the Macintosh – when its crisp, right from the tree (Mac’s soften quickly). Karen Griffiths prefers the Gala or Gold Delicious and prefers Cortland when baking with apples. She mentioned Cortland keeps nice and white so is a favourite in salads too. When baking, Karen prefers apple crisp or dumplings.
There are three controlled storage areas on site at the orchard. The oxygen is reduced to 3% to keep the apples fresh longer. Then, these areas are sealed at a temperature of 0 – 3 degrees.
Prior to sending to market apples are run along a conveyor belt fit with pads that buff them to a beautiful shine. This is simply for esthetics for the buying public. During this process they are graded by hand. Seventy-five percent of the product at Blake’s Orchard is sold to a domestic market.
The trees at Blake’s Orchard are semi-dwarf. The oldest tree is approximately 20 years old. Some of the newest trees grow one of the newest popular brands, Honey Crisp ~ which the deer in the orchard love. The oldest trees there are the empire brand.
Bosc and Bartlett pears trees, also found at this orchard, are really sensitive to frost. The long cold winter last season affected this year’s yield, which wasn’t too good.
42933 St Michaels Rd.