How an Ontario Apple Farmer Stays Ahead of the Curve
Insight How farmers across Canada are working to meet consumers needs.
A new documentary-style web series, Real Farm Lives, gives Canadians a glimpse into the daily lives of three farm families.
“Canadians have a genuine curiosity about where their food comes from, so we wanted to create a link between Canadians and farm families to help foster a better understanding of modern farming and the hard work involved in getting food from farm to fork,” says Pierre Petelle, President and CEO of CropLife Canada, the trade association that represents the Canadian plant science industry, and the organization that created the series.
“We also know that fewer people have a connection to farming than ever before which means they may have inaccurate perceptions of it,” he says.
The series delves into the trials and tribulations of real farm families, including how weather, insects, weeds and diseases have the potential to impact their crops and livelihoods.
Meeting the demands of an ever-growing population has many modern farmers approaching things differently every season, explains Kyle Ardiel, one of the cast members and an apple grower from Clarksburg, ON. “We have to use new technologies and new sciences to grow and protect our crops. We call it retooling — getting higher yields out of our trees so we can meet growing consumer demands.”
Today’s consumers favour large, red, sweet apples to tart green ones. To ensure his apples turn out uniformly red, Ardiel places white reflective material between each row of trees in his orchard. “The reflective material bounces additional light up into the tree canopy and colours the apples more consistently,” he says.
Another technology Ardiel uses is a mechanized, moveable platform in place of a ladder for picking apples and tending to trees. The platform raises up to a height of about 12 feet and moves at a slow enough pace that workers on both sides of the platform can maintain efficiency. “Not only is it faster, but it’s easier on the workers,” notes Ardiel.
Looking to the future, Ardiel plans new apple varieties to stay competitive and meet consumer demand. “I need to figure out what consumers’ taste profiles are, how they’re changing, and what they are going to want because it takes me two years to order my trees and then I have to wait five years before I can get any fruit off them.” That, he says, is how his orchard will remain viable for the next 20 years.
To watch the series and learn more about farm life, visit realfarmlives.ca.