Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Apple Festival 2013: Apple agent honored as grand marshal

Marvin A. Owings Jr. has devoted his career to promoting the apple industry, honoring farmers for the job they do. This weekend the apple industry is honoring him.

Owings, the director of the Henderson County Agricultural Extension Service, is the Grand Marshal of the 2013 King Apple Parade.
"It's a real honor. The industry means so much to me," Owings said. "I started here in 1985 as the apple agent. These growers aren't just my clients they're my friends."
Owings is a walking encyclopedia about apples, their history, the varieties and the market.
"The industry started back in the 1780s with Williams Mills and his son-in-law Samuel Edney," he says. "Of course it's grown over the years, and over the decades it's produced a living for numerous generations of families in this area."
The Dana Packing House cooperative, formed in 1936, helped growers expand their market.
"Andy Lyda — and there's plenty of Lydas still growing apples today — was the first grower to purchase a speed sprayer, what we call today an air blast sprayer, and that's essential to using crop protectant," he said.
"We're very blessed to live and grow fruit here in Henderson County," he added. "It's an ideal location to grow fruit because of our cool nights and some of the best soils in the country. And with our market, we're within a day's drive of over half the population here in the United States."
Owings recalled the effort to make the Apple Festival more profitable for the farmers who grow the fruit it honors.
"The festival has come a long ways as far as the apple vendors," he said. "When I first started there were very few apple vendors that were participating on Main Street. With the help of Blue Ridge Apple Growers, we started the Direct Marketing Association, so we had a core group that was able to convince some of those growers to participate in the festival. We went from just a few growers to 15 presently."
Randy Newman, president of the Blue Ridge Farm Direct Market Association, said he was glad to hear that the festival is honoring the longtime apple agent.
"He does lot for the county growers," Newman said. "I think he's very deserving of that. He'll make a good grand marshal. Marvin does all he can do to help the apple growers and we all appreciate it."
Owings likes the way the Apple Festival connects people to the county's apple growing heritage.
"The festival helps brings the farm to the city and it does touch everyone in the community whether it be local clubs, churches or business," he said. "All of these have some part in helping create a sense of unity around the apple."
As for the honor of leading the parade on Labor Day, Owings thinks of himself as a stand-in for growers, packers and their families.
"The industry means so much to me," he said. "I think this honor is really not for me. It's for the apple industry."