Monday, October 5, 2009

Fruit of the Valley

Well, it looks like we are well into another fall harvest season in the Annapolis Valley. This is one of my favorite times of year in Nova Scotia. The air has become a little bit crisp, the tourists have a bit more time to stop and chat and the colours in the foliage on the North Mountain are approaching their peak. To top things off, this is a wonderful time in Nova Scotia since our finest local produce is very much in season.

While grapes, wine grapes in particular, may the fashionable new crop for Valley farmers, this has not always been the case. In fact, if you were to take an informal poll of people living outside Nova Scotia, I am going to suggest that grapes would not yet be the crop that is most closely associated with the Annapolis Valley. Since the latter part of the nineteenth century the Annapolis Valley has been very closely associated with apples.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, much of this provinces's export economy relied on the apple harvest. With Britain as a primary market, ships would leave Nova Scotia's shores with holds filled with barrels of apples. Literally millions of bushels were exported. Other fruit was turned into juice, cider (soft and hard) or dehydrated. All of this production not only supported farmers, shippers, and the apple marketers but cooperages, shipbuilders and the railways were among the other groups who benefited. While the quality of the fruit was usually high, let's not fool ourselves into thinking that these were always the finest apples. For a time, British importers would open barrels of our apples to make sure that there was good fruit throughout the barrel. Some enterprising souls had discovered that if they packed good apples on the top and bottom of a barrel that they could fill the middle with less desirable fruit.

Much of the culture of the Valley still revolves around apples. To give a handful of examples, we have the Apple Blossom Festival, Ciderfest in Bridgetown and Berwick the Apple Capital. Drive down almost any country road or into any farm market and you will find apples for sale. There are apples to be eaten raw, cooking apples, cider apples and drop apples which local hunters use to lure deer. To many a local, Annapolis Valley champaign has nothing to do with grapes.

Today's image shows a former part of the apple infrastructure in Nova Scotia. This photograph, taken about 1900, shows a group of apple packers in front of a warehouse on the Annapolis Royal waterfront. Owned by the New England and Acadia Steamship Company, this warehouse had walls filled with sawdust to provide insulation against the winter winds. For ease of shipping, this structure stood at the end of a pier which extended into the Annapolis Basin. today it it reduced to logs and rocks but the remains of this pier can still be seen on the waterfront.

All for now,

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