New apples expected to take bite out of market
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor
Friday, 18 October 2013 09:28
What nature does not handle, humans can tweak. Such is the case with a relatively new apple called EverCrisp.
|Apples are seen in a bin. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Bill Dodd, who was introduced at Thursday's monthly ag-business breakfast forum as "the authority on apples," is at the forefront of the new apple variety which is the "child" of Honey Crisp and Fuji apples.
Dodd serves on many apple and fruit association boards and is the director of the Ohio Apples Marketing Program.
He explained the new business model which is now being used for apples involves the usual patent process for plant species, but also the trademarking of the name.
Modern apple orchards no longer resemble the iconic large apple trees. Through technology dwarf varieties have changed the landscape to trees which more closely resemble grape arbors as the trees need to be supported by trellises.
At one time there were an average of 40 to 60 trees per acre yielding an average of 250 bushels per acre at most orchards. The newer apple farms feature the dwarf trees with 1,000 to 1,200 trees per acre yielding more than 1,000 bushels per acre.
Though dwarf varieties have been popular for 10 years, those types are now losing ground to smaller dwarf varieties. The cost of the tree remains around $6 per tree, but with more trees per acre, like many other aspects of agriculture, more and more smaller orchards are disappearing. Larger scale operations are needed to be viable.
"It's an economy of scale in running the business," he said.
As a fourth-generation operator at his family farm, Dodd's Hillcrest Orchards of Amherst, Dodd noted how his farm is agriculture entertainment with a focus on tours, U-pick apples and pumpkins, hayrides, corn mazes and other similar events.
He was not shy about his frustration with some of the governmental regulations.
He noted a recent food safety requirement that the bins transporting the apples from the orchards to processing operations be covered. The fear is that bird droppings could fall on the apples.
He sarcastically asked, "Don't they realize these apples are picked from the trees where the birds have been all around for months?"
The shorter root structure will not support larger trees, that is why the support trellises are needed. However, it does produce fruit in fewer years, with some production coming in the second year.
Dodd noted the different needs of foods grown in or on the ground as opposed to things like apples and other fruits grown in the air on trees, etc.
He added, "This is the type of rules you get when you have people who don't know the industry or business creating the rules."
Dodd said on the legislative front, the Immigration Bill and the Farm Bill are also important legislation being watched by the industry.
"On the immigration reform, we need someone to pick our fruit. Our nation was built on the back of immigrants. Apples and strawberries are still not done by Americans. We use immigrant labor for those jobs," he said.
In the Farm Bill, he said apple producers are not looking for subsidies, but rather research funding to help develop better and more nutritious apples and other trait improvements.
He noted the need for ongoing education of non-farmers about where food comes from. With a kindergarten class at his farm, he was dumbfounded when one member of the class asked why there was no sticker on her apple.
The new EverCrisp apple was first produced in 2008 and was released last November. Dodd says they expect the trees to be widely distributed by 2015.
Its release is being managed by the Midwest Apple Improvement Association, a cooperative group which will require membership as well as certain fees to be able to grow and distribute the new apple.
It is not yet available in wide release. Until then, apple lovers have a wide variety of choices including the EverCrisp's base apples of the Honey Crisp and the Fuji.
Earlier this year, Dodd was selected as the executive director of the Premier Apple Cooperative. Premier is an organization comprised of roughly 100 apple packers in eight eastern states dedicated to sharing information to help the apple industry thrive.