John Kingsmill expects consumers will come to recognize the ‘Born in B.C. Raised in the Okanagan’ brand of tree fruits, beginning with two new apple varieties bred here in the valley.
He was delighted with today’s recognition by the government of B.C. of the innovative approach developed by the Plant Improvement Corporation he is CEO of, in branding and marketing these unique new varieties of fruits—with a $25,000 grant to help promote them.
PICO is owned by the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, and its mandate is to manage and commercialize new varieties of fruit developed locally, such as by breeders at the federal Pacific Agri-food Research Centre.
It launched the Born in B.C. program last fall and began to promote the new Salish and Aurora Golden Gala varieties of apples, bred at PARC in Summerland.
The money comes from a new provincial Buy Local fund that provides matching funding to projects which focus on encouraging the use of local agricultural products. It’s administered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C.
Provincial agriculture minister Norm Letnick said, “Being from the Okanagan, there’s always a sense of pride when I see our local, high quality fruits being shared with the rest of B.C. and the world.
“With an estimated $54 million in farm gate sales in 2012, the B.C. apple industry has much to celebrate and I congratulate PICO on this funding.”
Apples and sweet cherries are the province’s two largest tree fruit crops.
The Aurora Golden Gala variety of apple was re-named following a national contest in 2003, replacing its working name of 8S-69-23, but it has ridden a somewhat rocky road since then, partly because growers are challenged to produced unblemished Auroras.
Initially, growers planted it because of all the consumer enthusiasm generated by the contest across the country, but when it was discovered there wasn’t yet any quantity of the newly-developed fruit being grown to make it generally available, consumers lost interest.
Despite these difficulties, with careful handling and use of different growing, picking and packing techniques than used for growing the traditional varieties, the Aurora is very favoured by consumers because of its crunch and flavour.
It’s a mid-season, yellow apple with noteworthy texture and keeping quality. The flavour is described as light, with honey and tropical flavours.
Salish is also a Gala and Splendour cross, but it has more of a pinkish-red blush over a yellow background. It has a tangy flavour, is very juicy and crisp.
As part of efforts to help growers learn the best techniques for growing these new varieties, PICO organized a bus tour in January of a Washington State packing plant owned by the Auvil Fruit Company, which has planted 100 acres of Aurora Golden Gala and changed the way it grows, pick and packs in order to present consumers with unblemished fruit.
The Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative de-listed Auroras after a couple of years because of the specialty care required to handle it without causing marks to show up on the fruit.
The variety rights management company is operated by a board of directors that includes industry representatives from across the country as well as experts in the field.