The Norfolk Fruit Growers' Association is a co-operative organization of fruit growers that was chartered in the Town of Simcoe in the County of Norfolk, Ontario on March 26, 1906. Established as a limited-liability company with a one member / one vote practice, decisions of policy are made by the general membership and day-to-day operations are managed by staff.
It was through the vision of James E. Johnson that our association was founded on March 26, 1906. Together with 17 charter members, Johnson set out to organize Norfolk County's numerous small-acreage farmers into a solid and knowledgeable force that could realize the benefits of pooling their product and employing a competent manager to market it. The Association's success was reflected almost immediately in two ways: Apple acreage increased and apple quality improved!
A brief history through the years
In the early days of the Association, growers packed their own apples in barrels right in the orchard, under the supervision of Association-appointed inspectors. Grades were randomly verified by travelling inspectors and growers were paid according to the number of barrels of each grade they shipped.
1920s: In the early '20s the Fruit Marks Act was passed, establishing legal grades and from here on inspections were carried out by government personnel.
1930s: In 1930, the Association built its first cold storage plant and apples were no longer packed in the orchard. Ontario's first grower-owned cold storage facility used exclusively for apples, it comprised four cold storage rooms, a receiving room and a basement packing room. By the next year it doubled in size and in 1936 a further addition was built that included offices and a humidity-controlled packing room.
1940s: The war years put a halt to exports and some serious restrictions were felt domestically as well. A post-war surge, however, saw a substantial increase in production, plantings and prices and many improvements were advanced in spraying, grading and handling methods.
1950s: We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 1956! By the late '50s, post-war plantings were coming into production and an additional property (The Queensway) was acquired. In 1958 growers began to be paid by the pound.
1960s: A modern pack line was installed at the Queensway and poly-bag packing came into being in response to the emergence of large retail chain stores with centralized buying practices that offered self-service areas.
1970s: We implemented the Integrated Pest Management program in 1979. The Association took on the marketing of all juice apples produced by its members, making it a total marketing organization.
1980s: 1981 marked the Association's 75th anniversary! Ten new controlled-atmosphere storage rooms were added to our facilities. Packed fruit accounted for the largest part of our sales and exports to Europe enjoyed a resurgence.
1990s: A new six-lane optical-sizing and colour sorting pack line was installed in 1993, enabling us to sort fruit into a total of 18 different sizes and grades per run. In 1995 new carton-sealing equipment was installed on the pack line. Growers completed the first production protocol in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund’s ecological apple production. Propane and electric lift trucks were changed to natural gas powered equipment. Storage rooms were made smaller to maintain the best possible freshness of the apple.
2000’s: The conversion to 43,000 plastic bins from wooden plywood bins was completed. Additional technology employed to install new weighers and baggers for the marketplace. Investment was made in automatic palletisation to reduce heavy lifting and keep produce in the cold chain longer. Traceability completely incorporated in the new equipment to trace from the box to the orchard. Plant was HACCP and BRC certified and growers were EuroGAP and then GlobalGAP certified.
2010’s: Several investments in new technology were made. The ability to sort apples by size, colour and external defect was installed with a new pre-sort sizer installed ahead of the packing sizer. Gentle dry bin fillers were added to protect the sorted fruit for further use. New bin washing and robotic bin handling was installed to allow each bin to be washed and sanitized each year. New bagging technology is added to facilitate direct coding on bags. New Honeycrisp, Ambrosia and Gala plantings came into production. Plant is now FSSC 22000 certified and growers are CanadaGAP certified.