In an industry that espouses change, Canadian Don Claridge is somewhat of a maverick.
The 57-year-old apple grower, who operates an eight-acre orchard in Oyama, British Columbia, is heavily into McIntosh apples, and continues to also produce Spartans and Golden Delicious despite current trends towards Royal Gala and exotic varieties such as Ambrosia and Fuji.
"I like to think McIntosh apples are as modern as tomorrow but with all the charm of yesterday," he quipped. "They’ve withstood the test of time. It’s something we can grow fairly well here on a good year. You might as well grow something that the other guy hasn’t got a lot of."
While most of his peers are advocating replanting to high-density trees, Claridge sticks with the tried and true.
"I think the replant program that’s available is a very good one if you’re going into high-density planting. But we’re not going to be taking out McIntosh that we like, to take advantage of a government replant program," he said.
A second-generation apple grower who has been in the business since 1972, Claridge was presented with the B.C. Fruit Growers Association’s Award of Merit in recognition of outstanding contribution to the future of the tree fruit industry at the association’s 120th annual convention in January in Penticton, British Columbia.
"I was very surprised first of all and very pleased. I wasn’t expecting it," he said.
Claridge has a long involvement with the association, and became a regional chairman within weeks of becoming a grower, a position he still holds today. He has attended every BCFGA convention since 1969, and has served on a number of committees.
"My father, Allan, was president of the association for seven years (1966-73), so the BCFGA is almost in our blood," he said. "We’re big believers in it. We believe that if you’re going to be a fruit grower, if you can, you should be involved in the political end of the association because it helps make your living. We’ve got our living out of farming all those years, and we’ve never had off-farm income. That’s what we do for a living, and we believe we should take the time to work for the association because the association works for us."