More Than an Apple a Day

Freshness is key to produce’s flavour offered at Arlington Orchards’ markets

Barry Balsom considers himself to be in the “flavour business.”

As far as the co-owner of Arlington Orchards is concerned, there is only one way to ensure that the products you buy at one of his three fresh market locations across the Island have a taste to savour: make it as fresh as possible. Within 24 hours of being picked, the product is on the shelves at his Miscouche, Charlottetown, and Stratford market locations.

“Terms like ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ are used so often now the consumer often doesn’t know what they mean,” Balsom said. “For us, it is real simple—‘fresh’ means it has been picked within the last day and ‘local’ product comes from the Maritimes and most likely PEI.”

He and his wife and co-owner, Carol, grew their first apple trees on land they inherited in Arlington back in 1993. The land had been in agricultural production since the 1800’s, with the most recent crop being potatoes. After researching what crops might grow best, they settled on apples.

While there are 15 different types of soil on Canada’s million acre farm, only two of them are suited to apple production. In fact, Balsom boasts the farm has one of the best microclimates, not just on PEI, but in the country, for growing apples.

Over the course of the last 25 years, apples have remained the main crop, with over 27 varieties hanging from the trees waiting to be picked each fall. However, the orchards also contain plum, cherry, and pear trees. As well, Arlington is now producing peaches commercially and hopes to expand production over the next several years.
When they decided to open a fresh market location (Miscouche was first on the list 18 years ago), Balsom reached out to growers of other crops, both in PEI and throughout the Maritimes.

Carol Balsom (left) and Lori Gallant make mustard pictures to be sold at the three Arlington Orchards fresh markets in Miscouche, Charlottetown and Stratford. Photo credit: Andy Walker

Now they support over 59 farm families by directly selling their product at the three fresh markets—which are hard to miss with their bright yellow paint—with a complete array of vegetables in season. There is also a variety of high-quality agri-food products including jams, jellies, pickles, cider, and baked goods made in Arlington Orchards’ commercial kitchen using only the freshest, most tasty vegetables, fruits, and berries.

For those who prefer a more hands-on experience, the U-Pick opens in early to mid-September and Balsom said it is a beehive of activity for most of the fall, especially on the weekends. For several years, the farm has been partnering with the Red Oak Shriners Club to host a family fun day in September featuring children’s activities and a chance to pick some apples right off the tree.

Arlington Orchards has also been involved with PEI Open Farm Day since its inception back in 2001. The farm also plays host to a number of school and bus tours and the U-Pick has a children’s play area in case younger ones get tired of picking.

“So many people have lost a direct connection with farming, making it more vital than ever for us to explain to people what we do and how we do it,” Balsom said.

Today’s consumers also wants assurances their food is safe and is grown in an environmentally friendly manner and Balsom said all the food sold at the market meets the nationally recognized standard for fruits and vegetables known as Canada GAP (Good Agricultural Practices). The three markets will remain open daily for as long as product is in season.

About Andy Walker

Andy Walker has been a journalist in PEI for over 30 years. After a career working for both PEI's daily newspapers, he has been a full-time freelance writer since 1997 and resides in Cornwall.

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