Between record-breaking spring rains and a sweltering, dry July, Ontario's farmers have dealt with their fair share of challenges this year.
But along southern Ontario's “Apple Pie Trail,” the crop is looking nice, and orchards are excited to share their produce with visitors.
“Fall is the most beautiful time of year in our area,” says Patti Kendall with the Blue Mountain Village Association. “All the fall leaves are changing on all the beautiful trails, and the apples are just coming into bloom.”
The Apple Pie Trail runs along the shore of Georgian Bay from Collingwood to Owen Sound, and south to Beaver Valley and Ravenna. The Blue Mountains and the bay provide a protective micro-climate that makes the region ideal for growing fruit, similar to Niagara.
“We actually have the largest concentrated apple growing region in Canada,” Kendall says, adding 25 per cent of Ontario's apple crop is grown in Grey County alone.
“We have over a dozen varieties and a couple of new varieties, including the Red Prince apple.”
Visitors are encouraged to drive the trail, sampling apple products like pie and cider, but also learning about the orchards.
“It’s really interesting -- if you’re driving through the countryside in the area, you’ll see what you’ll think are vineyards, but they’re actually orchards,” explains Kendall.
“It’s a new high density growing technique that uses fewer pesticides and is more environmentally friendly -- and they’re able to produce more apples.”
There's extra excitement brewing in the region this year, as 2011 marks the 200th anniversary of the Macintosh apple. The original tree was discovered on an Ontario farm in 1811 and bore fruit for another 80 years. Today, “Macs” are one of the most popular apple varieties in the world.
If you're planning a trip to the Apple Pie Trail, come hungry, Kendall says.
“You'll love the fall in the area and there's so much to do, so you can work up an appetite and then enjoy the harvest!”