Apple blossom time is Jeffrey Walsh’s favourite time of year. For this commercial apple grower, the blossoms signal the start of new life on the farm. “Everybody is eager and excited to get going,” he says. “You can see at that point what kind of crop you’re going to have, as long as a hurricane doesn’t come along. If you have a big bloom, you’re probably going to have a great year.”
Walsh Farms, in Rockland, near Berwick, produce apples for Scotian Gold Cooperative. As a cooperative member, they grow several varieties but focus mainly on Honeycrisp, Gala, Ambrosia and SweeTango®.
The farm has won two prestigious Golden Apple Awards from the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association. In 2016, they won for Best First Year Planting, and in 2019 for Best Management of an On-Farm Apple Tree Nursery.
“My grandfather, Fred Walsh, had a commercial apple farm down the road, and in 1987 my father, Mike Walsh, bought the one I currently own,” Jeffrey says. “I grew up on a family commercial apple farm and always liked it. I like working outside and watching things grow, and I like the flexibility of working with my family and having family time. We have four children here as well, so it’s a good work-life balance.”
Jeffrey’s wife, Courtney, works on the farm, as does his father. “I bought a piece of my parents’ farm in 2016 and began farming alone and managing the farm then. I bought the rest of the farm in October 2021, when Mike ‘retired’ – in quotation marks,” he says.
The farm also employs four full-time offshore workers. In addition to those jobs, Jeffrey knows that his farm supports Scotian Gold jobs related to apple storage, the packing line and the export of fruit to different markets.
The challenges for Walsh Farms are common to apple farmers in Nova Scotia – obtaining reliable farm labour and dealing with the weather. “You can have the perfect year weather-wise and have done everything right, and then you get a hurricane in late August that annihilates everything. That can be pretty devastating,” he says. “But the Farm Loan Board is supportive when things like that happen and can defer payments or come up with a program to help you through.”
He has used the Farm Loan Board for a mortgage and to buy equipment. “The Farm Loan Board is very understanding of how things work,” he says. “They’re devoted to agriculture in Nova Scotia.”
What is Jeffrey’s second-favourite time of year? “When there’s nothing left on the tree and you know the season’s over,” he says. “The beginning and the end are my favourite times.”