Bridgetown Apples

HERBERT OYLER

EMPIRE BRAND APPLES

KENTVILLE, NS

THE FIRST APPLE TREES CAME TO NOVA SCOTIA IN THE 1600’S BY FRENCH SETTLERS WHO CAME TO NOVA SCOTIA CHASING THE CODFISH.  WITH THE FAVOURABLE MICRO-CLIMATE OF THE ANNAPOLIS VALLEY, APPLE GROWING THRIVED IN NOVA SCOTIA AND IN THE 1800’S AN EXPORT MARKET DEVELOPED.

SO IMPORTANT WAS THIS NEW INDUSTRY THAT THE NOVA SCOTIA FRUIT GROWERS ASSOCIATION WAS CREATED IN 1863. IT PROMOTED OUR CROP OUTSIDE OF CANADA, AS WELL AS TO SHARED GROWING INFORMATION AMONGST THE FARMERS.  

GREAT BRITAIN BECAME THE BIGGEST MARKET FOR NOVA SCOTIA’S PRIZED APPLES AND THIS TRANSLATED INTO THE DESIGN OF MANY OF THE LABELS THAT WERE AFFIXED TO THE WOODEN BARRELS OF APPLES FOR EXPORT.

AS WITH FISHING, AS THE SIZE OF THE INDUSTRY GREW, LARGER PLAYERS AND INTERMEDIARIES TRIED TO EXTRACT MAXIMUM PROFIT, FREQUENTLY TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE SMALL FARMER.

HERBERT OYLER WAS ONE OF A SMALL HANDFUL OF CORPORATE SHIPPERS THAT WERE SOMEWHAT MALIGNED BY THE FARMERS.  THESE CORPORATE SHIPPERS OFTEN PROVIDED FINANCING TO THE FARMERS TO LOCK-UP THEIR HARVEST AND IN SO DOING SEVERELY RESTRICTED THE ABILITY OF THE FARMERS TO MAKE MUCH MORE THAN A LIVING WAGE.  

THE SHIPPING GROUPS OFTEN GOVERNED THEMSELVES BY SHORT TERM PROFIT MOTIVES AND THE NOVA SCOTIA APPLE GAVE UP IT’S ONCE PRIZED POSITION IN GREAT BRITAIN’S MARKETS.  THE 1930 ROYAL COMMISSION ON NOVA SCOTIA’S APPLE INDUSTRY ARGUED FOR EXTENSIVE CHANGES TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE IN THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET, BUT THE FARMERS DRIFTED IN AND OUT OF THEIR CO-OPERATIVES AND CHASED SHORT TERM OUTCOMES.

THE EXPORT MARKET FOR APPLES STOPPED DURING BOTH WORLD WARS AND AFTER WORLD WAR II IT NEVER FULLY RECOVERED.  AT THAT POINT, PROCESSING PLANTS BECAME MORE PREVALENT AND THE MANY BRANDS OF FRESH APPLES THAT HAD BEEN DEVELOPED CEASED TO EXIST. 

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