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THIS WEEK: Apple school, grower awards, ag-centric candidate forum

Apple farmers from across the South will join Henderson County growers this week at a two-day Apple School at Blue Ridge Community College and on site at two Edneyville orchards.

Terry Kelley, Henderson County Cooperation Extension director, said growers decided to combine two winter conferences that had typically taken place weeks apart in Hendersonville and Asheville. The two-day education, elections and awards program has also added a North Carolina Farm Bureau-sponsored forum on Tuesday night during which all five candidates for the Henderson County Board of Commissioners will field questions on agriculture topics. The forum is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Steve Wyatt Auditorium in the Patton Building at BRCC.
The annual conference combines three associations — the Southeast growers, the North Carolina Apple Growers Association and Blue Ridge Apple Growers.
The two-day event opens at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday at Jeff and Jerred Nix’s Flavor Full Farms for a demonstration of the apple slicing and packing operation that sends packaged slices to public schools across the state. Next, growers will get a look at equipment at KB (Kenny Barnwell) Orchards.
At Blue Ridge Conference Hall at BRCC, growers will learn about the latest trends, innovations and opportunities in the industry, elect officers to their associations and hand out awards.
They’ll also celebrate the first official Apple Growers Day, now set on the first Wednesday of February thanks to a resolution adopted last month by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners. The resolution noted that:
• Henderson County has produced apples since the 1700s and leads North Carolina in apple production.
• Growers harvest 2.25 million bushels of apples a year on roughly 4,000 acres of orchards, adding $35 million annually to the local economy.
• “Apple farmers, their families, their farm employees and other associated workers put in countless hours, risk untold dollars and labor all year long to produce the county’s famous apple crop.
• “Historically, apples have been the signature crop for Henderson County and continue to be the reason many people flock here to purchase our delicious fruit and enjoy our beautiful apple farms.
• “Henderson County is home to the North Carolina Apple Festival.
• “Henderson County’s warm days, cool nights, and ample rainfall provide ideal conditions for apples with good color, finish, and a sweet natural flavor.”
The two-day Apple School features more than 15 presentations on topics ranging from ag-tourism to orchard weed management to apple breeding. The Blue Ridge Apple Growers. will also hand out its annual awards and elect officers.