An Oliver grower has been awarded top honours at this year’s National Apple Competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Varinder Gill won several awards at the event. He won first in the Golden Delicious and Red Delicious class, taking the “grand champion” award in the commercial varieties (Red Delicious) category. Also in that category, he won third in the Gala class.
Gill also placed third in the “best collection of five varieties” category.
“It was a surprise . . . it’s a Christmas gift for me,” he chuckled after hearing the good news.
The 30-year-old grower sent several apple varieties to the competition, but never thought he had any chance of winning. In fact, he totally forgot about it.
Growers from BC, Ontario and Quebec entered some of their best apples in five categories, including heritage and new varieties.
The winning apples were judged by John Gardner, a retired apple specialist from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.
The Gill farm is located on Road 2 south of Oliver. Gill has been farming for more than 11 years, and has a total of 22 acres. In addition to apples, he grows cherries and peaches.
Gill started growing fruit in Oliver when he was 18. He basically taught himself the business after talking to area growers. He and his cousin now have one of the biggest blocks of Red Delicious apples in the valley.
A number of people tried to convince Gill to pull out of the old variety, but he continued growing Red Delicious because he is still making money.
“I’m not complaining,” he said.
Gill said the secret to growing quality apples begins with good pruning practices. After that, everything falls into place.
Gill spray thins his apple crops instead of thinning them by hand.
Despite facing tough years in the business, Gill enjoys his work because he loves being his own boss.