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VIDEO: Great Valley Juices accepts a quarter million pounds of Dorian drop apples in first few hours


Port Williams scale house phone ‘ringing off the hook’ with calls from producers

PORT WILLIAMS, N.S. —

It didn’t take long for the new scale house operator at Great Valley Juices in Port Williams to see what the job is all about.

Although he had already been working for a few days booking appointments, Nathan Brown started in his new job inside the scale house on Sept. 16, the day the juice plant opened to accept drop apples from area producers. Post-tropical storm Dorian knocked a significant volume of apples off trees in Kings County orchards.

Since it was his first day working the scale, he didn’t have the benefit of past years’ experience to compare it to. However, he said it was very busy and “the phone has been pretty much ringing off the hook.”

“We’ve just been doing our best to keep up with it and try to get everybody helped out,” he said.

Around 3:30 p.m., Brown said that they were still waiting on a few trucks but approximately 250,000 pounds of windfalls had already been delivered that afternoon. The apples came from nine different farms. Around 4 p.m., another tractor-trailer arrived carrying approximately 40,000 pounds.

Brown, who has experience working for Great Valley in other capacities, estimated that 250,000 pounds of apples would equate to approximately 10,000 12-packs - or 120,000 945 ml bottles.

“It’s quite a bit for a day, really, when you think about it,” he said.

Brown had no idea when he was preparing to start work in the scale house that Dorian was on its way to wreak havoc on Valley orchards or that they’d be dealing with such an abundance of drop apples so early. He didn’t mind though, as it presented an opportunity to get a feel for the job and learn quickly.

He said there is a definite sense of disappointment among area producers who had to bring so many of their apples in for juicing. Juice apples are not nearly as valuable as those picked by hand from the tree. Selling the drops for juice at least allows producers to recoup some of their input costs.

“One guy said that a lot of his crop is destined for us, which is unfortunate for him,” Brown said. “It’s better to have them on the trees for them, for sure.”

Losses will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for some growers.

In an earlier interview, Great Valley Juices director of operations Jay Johnson said the Sept. 16 opening to accept windfalls was about three weeks earlier than normal.

She said they’ve been talking to some growers who are reporting a 30 per cent loss of apple crops due to the storm, while others are “looking at much more significant levels.”

In a Sept. 13 interview, Andrew Johnson of Willowbank U-Pick Farm said he had a crew picking up drops so they could be used to make juice. They lost 20 to 30 per cent of their crop in established orchards. They also lost approximately 20 young apple trees, having recently planted five acres of new orchard.

He said the apples couldn’t be left on the ground because, with the potential for warmer weather still existing, they wouldn’t last. The apples would also pose a safety concern for people picking off the trees.

Producers with drop apples can call 902-542-8660, the direct line to the Great Valley Juices scale house, to book appointment times.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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