Jane and Robert Mennell

Cawston orchardist talks about prestigious award

Local orchardist talks about winning award at Royal Agriculture Winter Fair

A Cawston couple were recognized for their Ambrosia apples at the largest indoor agriculture fair in the world.

Robert and Jane Mennell received the Canadian Horticultural Council Trophy for Grand Champion of new varieties.

The award was handed out at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

Robert Mennell told the Review although Ambrosia’s are quite well-known in B.C. and grown throughout the world they aren’t as quite well-known in the east (Ontario).

“Out east it’s just not as well-known yet. Wilfrid actually won the award last year for best display for the Ambrosia so they’re out promoting it in the market.

My other brother Brian and I got it going and got it into the organic market back when we started 15 or so years ago.

It really flew there and grew from there and now it’s grown all over the world.”

Robert Mennell’s brother and sister-in-law, Wilfrid and Sally Mennell discovered the apple tree in a row of newly replanted trees back in the early ’90s. The Ambrosia is a cultivar of apple with it’s parentage suspected to be the Starkling Delicious and the Golden Delicious, which were also being grown in the orchard at that time.

Related: Cawston cidery receives award for dome tasting room

Robert Mennell enjoys growing Ambrosia’s, but humbly said if his apples were chosen to be in the agriculture competition several years ago they would not have won.

“The year before last it was a disaster. It was my worst growing season in 40 years. We had a terrible problem with aphids,” he said.

This year although there was heavy smoke in the air for most of the latter part of the summer and into the fall, Robert said it was an exceptional growing year.

“You bumble along with farming. The smoke probably saved us this year.

Every time it was going to be 40 C and it would hurt the apple the smoke thickened right up and it kept it at 30 to 32 C,” he said.

He credited the hard work of organic farmers and the Sterile Insect Release program for the award winning fruit that is produced in this area.

“When any insect comes around they love to blame the organic growers for it. That’s the other thing. It’s where you are located. With the Sterile Insect Release program… things became that much easier.

The Similkameen is exceptional for organics.”

Robert Mennell said entering competitions such as the prestigious Royal Agricultural Winter Fair wasn’t something he would normally do, but he was happy with the outcome.

“It’s good fun. Every year is a new game in terms of new insects and stuff like that nothing stays the same,” he said.

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