A ‘Gala’ event at Stevens Or­chard

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier Stanstead East

Har­vey Stevens and Marika Par­enteau, the own­ers and op­er­a­tors of Stevens Or­chard in Stanstead, had to be happy, last Sun­day, to see so many peo­ple from the com­mu­nity come out to take part in the or­chard’s first ‘Gala event’. Un­der gloomy skies, teach­ers and stu­dents from Sun­ny­side Ele­men­tary and Jardin-des-Fron­tieres school, along with par­ents, grand­par­ents and sev­eral

stu­dents from Stanstead Col­lege’s Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Pro­gram, picked and sorted Royal Gala ap­ples, putting aside all the ‘ju­nior’ or un­der­sized Gala ap­ples for the stu­dents at the two ele­men­tary schools.

“We have many un­der- size Gala ap­ples which are very good ap­ples. They have to be 2 ½ inches wide to be Grade A Fancy, and many of our ap­ples are 2 ¼ inches wide. They’re sort­ing them out and we’ll store them in our re­frig­er­a­tor and de­liver them to the schools through­out the year,” ex­plained Har­vey Stevens on Sun­day night af­ter a busy day of har­vest­ing. “A com­mu­nity event builds com­mu­nity pride, and now we have a healthy snack for the stu­dents from an environment less than two kilo­me­ters away, that saves on pack­ag­ing. So the en­vi­ron­men­tal aspects of the project are good,” he added.

He and his wife Marika were also happy to see fam­i­lies spend­ing time to­gether in a healthy environment, af­ter all, it’s one of the rea­sons they be­gan plant­ing the or­chard in the first place. “We started plant­ing in 1998 and kept plant­ing ev­ery year, mostly dwarf and semi-dwarf ap­ple trees. We now have close to three thou­sand trees,” said Mr. Stevens. His son, An­drew, also helps at the or­chard.

Asked why he and his wife got into ap­ple farm­ing, he ex­plained: “My grand­fa­ther Blais was an avid ap­ple per­son, plant­ing and graft­ing ap­ples. My wife and I were in­ter­ested in agri­cul­ture and we like be­ing out­side, we had the land, so we did a four year mar­ket study and saw we could in­te­grate our views with ap­ple pro­duc­tion; af­ter we added rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries. We also wanted an environment where fam­i­lies could come to­gether. When I was young, my par­ents would hide soft drinks and choco­late bars on ‘Candy Hill’ and my two sis­ters and I would spend the af­ter­noon look­ing for them. With an or­chard it’s a sim­i­lar the­ory: fam­i­lies spend­ing time to­gether in a nat­u­ral environment, but the ap­ples are health­ier!”

Like the Galas that were be­ing picked last Sun­day, Har­vey and Marika like to grow va­ri­eties that “peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing.” Along with the usual va­ri­eties like Melba, Cort­land, Spar­tan and Em­pire, they grow Ma­coun, Paulared, Sun­rise, Gin­ger Gold, the much sought af­ter Honey Crisp, and Red and Golden De­li­cious ap­ples which are the last to ripen. “We’re still re­search­ing other va­ri­eties here in the or­chard. Lots of peo­ple thought we couldn’t grow Galas here be­cause they usu­ally do bet­ter in a warmer cli­mate,” com­mented Har­vey.

Af­ter last Sun­day’s com­mu­nity pick­ing event, about one thou­sand pounds of ‘ju­nior’ Galas were put aside for the stu­dents of Sun­ny­side and Jardin-desFron­tieres. Pick­ers and sorters are re­turn­ing to the Stevens Or­chard this com­ing Sun­day to try and reach their goal of two thou­sand pounds. “We’re hav­ing an­other ‘Gala’ event be­tween 1:00 and 5:00 on Sun­day. We hope lots of peo­ple come out and it’s nice and sunny like they’ve pre­dicted.”

Asked about this year’s grow­ing sea­son, the ap­ple pro­ducer replied: “It’s been an ex­tra­or­di­nary ap­ple sea­son. There were no prob­lems with pol­li­na­tion, no hail, lots of water. Every­thing came to­gether and the trees have been just loaded with ap­ples of good qual­ity. It’s the best sea­son we’ve seen for ap­ples, rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries. We were even pick­ing blue­ber­ries on Thanks­giv­ing Sun­day!”

Photo Stanstead Jour­nal

Lekae­sha Bryant and Vanessa Stratton, who both go to Galt, and Jed Bryant and Ryan Stratton, from Sun­ny­side, dressed in win­ter coats to pick Galas last Sun­day at the Stevens Or­chard.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Har­vey Stevens and Marika Par­enteau, with son An­drew in be­tween, at their ap­ple farm in Stanstead.

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