BC FRUIT TESTERS ASSOCIATION
“FROM A SEEDLING- - -”
By Catherine Rasmussen
In 1987 Frank Kirby and Brent Warner un-der took the task of gathering the local fruit enthusiasts with the aim of forming a group. Frank had been involved for some time with the Western Cascade and Home Orchard Society and was familiar with their Fall Fruit Shows and scion wood exchanges. Brent contacted small growers and amateurs in the area to determine if the interest was there. The initial meeting was held on November 30 in the pavilion of the Experimental Farm in Saanichton, with approximately 30 in attendance. A call for an executive committee saw Frank Kirby as president, Pat Hutchison secretary/treasurer and Bob Duncan.
The first AGM was held February 27 1988, in the same venue and there a slate of officers was elected with three and one year terms in place. Those members filling three year positions were Frank Kirby, Bob Duncan and Rob Dawson. These three are still hard working members of the Association. The one year posts were filled by Jim Walton, Rene Poisson and Michael Justice. Jim is also still a member and is often seen at grafting demonstrations. Keith Sedgeman, J.H. Eddy and Bill Steele were involved with the executive and of the three only J.H. Eddy is no longer a member. This tells us something about the commitment of the original group. Frank continued as president in `89, followed by Bob in `90 and `91, then Cindy Heft for 1992 and 1993.
An ambitious programme was put together for the first Annual General Meeting including a speaker, Clive Nickerson from the BCFG test orchard at Oliver, scion wood ex-change, grafting demonstration and a pruning demo by Brent Warner. The first major event planned was a meeting at the Experimental Farm with Jim Ballard giving an assessment of the new apple varieties from Washington. A field trip to the mid-Island area was arranged with stops at Denman Island to visit Anne de Cosson and Larry Berg at East Cider Orchard, a tour of Rene Poisson’s T’solum River Nursery and a visit to the orchard of Fred Gartleman in Courtenay. Anne de Cos-son is now area rep for the mid-Island.
The Aims and Goals of the BCFTA are essentially the same now as when they were drawn up at the inaugural meeting. The eleven years have been busy ones, with shows for the public at CanWest Mall and other venues, participation in Fairs, shows at UBC, summer and fall tours for the members. Pruning and grafting demos and of course our quarterly 32-page newsletter.
“- - - TO A TREE”
By Barbara Chernick
In “From a Seedling” Cathy Rasmussen described the development of the BCFTA, from its inception in 1987 to the end of 1998 and now that her seedling has become a remarkably well branched tree, she has asked me to outline its growth since then.
The branches of our BCFTA tree have borne fruit that nourishes not only the membership but the public. Open to all are the pruning and grafting events, now conducted at Royal
Roads University. Our Fall Fruit Shows in Nanaimo and at Victoria’s CanWest and Hillside Malls demonstrate that an astonishing collection of fruit is grown locally and also provide a wealth of information on all aspects of fruit growing.
Star players at other events as well as our own shows are members of the Apple Identification Group, whose endeavours continue long afterwards. These experts have been much in demand at our display at the UBC Apple Festival and they have also shared their talents at the Saanich Fair, the Surrey Parks and Recreation Apple Day, the Fairs at Cobble Hill and Powell River, on Mayne Island and at the Salt Spring Island Apple Event.
Members will note that the format of our AGM has been evolving: now it features several speakers, in an effort to accommodate the diversity of interests in our group. Current concerns such as the advent of the apple mag-got, the gypsy moth and the plum pox virus have been addressed. Our own orchardists have been among our speakers, also researchers from Summerland and our retired berry breeder Hugh Daubeny. Members are of course still able to purchase scion wood, root-stocks and other plant material as well as fruit growing supplies at these events.
Open to members only are the Summer and /or Fall Tours. We have visited the Summer-land and Agassiz Research Stations, Traas Nurseries, Carberry Nut Farm; also Dan Ponchet’s raspberry and strawberry operation and Farmer Phil’s blueberry and raspberry fields on Oldfield Road near Victoria. We haven’t neglected the wineries either, touring the Victoria Estate and Domaine de Chaberton operations, the Zanatta Vigneti vineyards as well as Merridale Ciderworks.
Our group has also been hosted by many orchardists on Mayne, Bowen and Texada Islands. We have been to Providence Farm. Our own members have received us - Joe Simonyi, Derry Walsh, Jim Rahe and Derek Bisset.
Our Harvest Festival is our windup of the year, and then we get to evaluate new apple selections from the breeding program at Summerland. We also enjoy gorging ourselves on each other’s fruit goodies, and we exchange recipes.
Speaking of recipes, our Cathy Rasmussen, Frank Besier and many contributors made 2002 a landmark year by producing our very own cookbook: BCFTA RECIPES!
Another book put together by Frank Besier is BCFTA Pears. It is largely based on “My 10 Years with the Pears of Vancouver Island” by E. M. Straight, circa 1928, in which graphics and descriptions are presented in order to help the Association identify pears from older trees.
Frank, Rex Welland, Dick Eldridge and Bob Duncan initiated our Heritage Group, which began cataloguing and identifying varieties of fruit grown in many parts of Vancouver Is-land and the Gulf Islands. A map of the fruit trees of St. Ann’s Academy was also produced.
Interest in our group has branched out since 1998 to include Salt Spring/Gulf Islands, Port Alberni and the West Kootenays where we now have district representatives, as well as in central Vancouver Island, Courtenay/Parksville, Powell River/Texada Island and the Fraser Valley. There is a possibility that we will soon have a representative in the Kelowna area too.
We have truly become testers not only of the usual favourites but also of the more exotic fruits and now some of us are experimenting with citrus, pawpaws, persimmons, sea buck-thorn, olives and the Shipova pear.
Members still receive four issues of The Cider Press annually. Specialists from both outside our group and within it have contributed generously. Cathy and colleagues have written a most comprehensive treatise on the quince. Our branches include an interest in the pollinators, both tame and wild, and Rex Welland has brought us an enormous amount of information about many species of bees; so has our Provincial Apiarist Paul van Westendorp.
Every fall Derek Bisset brings us up to date on the many facets of cider making. After the harvest Festival Dr. Cheryl Hampson of Summerland describes the apples we evaluated there. Bob Duncan has updated the pest situation in B.C., Dr. Jim Rahe has discussed apple scab, anthracnose canker and weeds; Drs. Tom Baumann and Hugh Daubeny keep us abreast of berry developments. We’ve had articles on apple replant disease by Dr. Tom Li, mulches by Dr. Eugene Hogue and bacterial canker by Dr. Gary Grove of Washington State University.
As you can see, those branches of our tree are still growing - and they need the support of all members if they are to continue bearing fruit! We need volunteers for our events, articles for The Cider Press and perhaps most of all - suggestions on how you would like to see our BCFTA tree develop in the future!
Reprinted from Volume 20, Issue 2, May 2007