Auvil Fruit Company
For a long time, Auvil Fruit Company had been on the lookout for a yellow, good-tasting dessert apple to add to its lineup of varieties, which includes Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Cripps Pink, but not a single Red or Golden Delicious apple.
Then along came Aurora, a pale yellow apple from Canada’s breeding program in Summerland, British Columbia. “We thought it was a wonderful apple,” said Brian Sand, Auvil’s sales manager. The company negotiated a nonexclusive license to produce the variety and is currently the only one in the United States growing commercial quantities, according to the Okanagan Plant Improvement Company (PICO), which manages the variety.
Sand said that as well as being a “fabulous eater,” Aurora is very productive and peaks on sizes 72 to 88 when grown on Auvil’s V-trellis system. But a drawback is its extreme susceptibility to bruising, and in British Columbia, it is now being grown mostly for direct on-farm sale. Auvil Fruit Company runs its packing line at half speed to avoid damaging the fruit.“We’re still learning how to grow it and particularly how to harvest it at the right maturity,” Sand said. “We still have a big learning curve.”
Despite the challenges of producing the variety, Auvil is planting more. It currently has between 50 and 80 acres, enough to produce about 6,000 bins. This is Auvil’s fourth season of selling the variety. It has a list of retail chains it is working with that are going to buy and promote the apple, and as production increases, it will add more to the list. Last fall, Sand visited a small chain in Florida. The manager told him that customers were asking when the store would have Aurora apples again.
“These are Florida people, and they have every piece of fruit to buy and they’re remembering Aurora,” Sand explained. “These are the reasons we continue to plant it. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have that kind of retail excitement.”