Oh, Those Vermont Apples… Q&A with the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association
April 21, 2015
Steve Justis is the Executive Director of the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association. As part of our Earth Week 2015 campaign, he took the time to answer a few of our questions to help you learn what the association is all about! Read Steve’s answers below.
What is the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association?
The Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association was formed in 1896 as the Vermont State Horticultural Society. The organization was created at the urging of Mr. S.W. Jewett of Weybridge, Vermont, to encourage production and marketing of the best tree fruits available. After 119 years, the organization’s purpose remains consistent with its original intent: to plan, develop, implement, deliver and coordinate programs and services which promote the growth and production of tree fruits and to better the conditions of fruit growers in Vermont. VTFGA is a state non-profit organization with about 60 grower members.
How does VTFGA benefit not only local farmers, but the community?
VTFGA provides many benefits to local communities throughout the state. Most Vermonters value the diversity of foods produced locally and sustainably. Vermont’s apple growers place a high value on their local markets for a number of reasons: they know that Vermonters value purchasing local foods, and they know that buying locally helps keep their money in their communities. Apples are a source of year-round and seasonal jobs, providing economic benefits throughout the state. About eight years ago, growers started working with the Vermont Foodbank to encourage consumers to “pick for their neighbors”, literally resulting in tons of apples going to food shelters and families in need throughout the state. Vermont’s growers also enjoy being able to produce such a popular and healthful crop as apples— apples help manage obesity, heart disease, diabetes, memory and even different types of cancer.
What are some of the bigger impacts the cider industry makes on our Vermont orchards?
Apple growers typically sell about 80 percent of their apples for the “fresh market”— that is grocery stores, farm stands and other venues where consumers buy them for snacks, lunch boxes and “fresh eating”. That still leaves apple growers with about 20 percent of their crop to sell— apples that don’t have perfect color, perhaps some damage from hail or rubbing on a branch or other minor defects that take them down the route for processing. Whether its cars, oil, or apples, supply and demand affect prices. Creating and selling new products, like cider, helps increase the demand for those less-than-perfect apples, enabling the apple grower to pay her bills and stay in business.
How has Woodchuck Cider assisted with the goals and mission of the VTFGA?
Over the last 30 years, the apple industry has undergone some tremendous changes, resulting in too many orchards across the country being bulldozed or cut. Woodchuck Cider, and the renewed interest in cider nationally, has given VTFGA members reason to be optimistic about their businesses again. While we’re still looking for the next new variety for fresh eating, we’re now also looking for the next new cider apple variety— because we want to keep improving our products. VTFGA and communities across Vermont have benefited from Woodchuck Cider’s leadership and investment in apples— whether as an important partner in the Pick For Your Neighbor program with the Vermont Foodbank, or working with VTFGA and the University of Vermont on helping determine “next steps” in growing our production of cider apples.Back to Blog