The Coombs Farmers’ Institute is hoping its latest event will help make locals a little more self-sufficient when it comes to food production.
A mobile apple press, hosted by the Coombs Farmers’ Institute, will be at the Coombs Fairgrounds (1014 Ford Rd.) on Oct. 14. People can bring their apples between 9 a.m. and noon to be stockpiled for the press, but farmers’ institute president Janet Thony said the apple pressing could go on until about 4 p.m.
“You never quite know how long the day is going to last because it depends on how many apples show up,” said Thony, adding that people need to bring a minimum of 100 lbs of apples — which is about the size of a laundry basket.
“It takes about 3.5 pounds of apples to make one litre (of juice) and you have to come with a minimum of 100 lbs of apples to be a customer,” she said. “If they don’t have 100 lbs of themselves, we encourage them to get together with neighbours.”
Thony said the press, Courtenay-based company Pressing Matter, hooks up to a water supply and then the apples are poured into a hopper on one end and come out the other end pasteurized. Thony said a five-litre, pasteurized bag costs $8.50.
The apple press, she said, also does raw juice for about $1 per litre.
The pasteurized juice allows for one year of storage without refrigeration, and once opened can last about three months without refrigeration.
According to Pressing Matter’s Facebook page, there is no waste through the process. It leaves behind an almost completely dry mash, which may be used as fertilizer, compost, or animal feed for sheep and cattle.
Thony said she found out about the mobile press while attending the Denman Island Apple Festival. It was after seeing the press, she said, that she realized it might be something for the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.
When she went to the apple festival, Thony said she didn’t event know about the apple presser.
Thony said she watched the whole process and contacted the owner, talking at length, to find out more about the process and his business.
Thony said the Coombs Farmers’ Institute did some research to find out if it would work in the area, and if it would stand a chance.
“If there’s too many apple pressings set up in too many communities on the Island, would we stand a chance of getting the minimum 5,000 lbs. we require?” Thony said.
After asking around, Thony said, the response was “overwhelmingly positive” and that it would give people another way of storing an abundant resource.
“People get sick of making apple juice, apple pies, dried apples and so it gave them another way of storing an abundant resource that all comes due over about a two-month period.”
“We saw this as one more way, — one more resource — that is already here. We’ve got tons of apple trees here,” Thony said.
“Historically we were a large apple-growing region.”
Quinn Ehrler, the owner of Pressing Matter, said even larger apple-growing areas are have experienced a decline in production this summer. Last year, he said. produced a bumper crop that led to the company pressing 400,000 pounds of apples.
“This year, we probably won’t have 100,000 (pounds), because of the apple shortage,” he said. “Last year we were pressing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. We just cancelled our Thursday pressing and now we’re only doing Tuesdays.”
Ehrler, who has been operating Pressing Matters for five years, said apple trees typically produce on a cyclical basis, with strongest crops appearing every two years.
In Coombs, Thony said, the hope is to one day turn this pressing event into a festival, similar to the one on Denman Island, but for this year the plan is to keep it fairly simple.
The only wild card for this year, Thony said, was getting the required minimum 5,000 lbs. of apples, but she said some members of the farmers’ institute felt that wouldn’t be a problem.
“If people watch what we do this year and how it goes, I suspect it’ll just grow as the years go on,” Thony said.
She also said she hopes one day it could grow to the size of the Denman Island Apple Festival, which she said has apples on display and experts helping to identify varieties of apples.
Thony said there will be food on the grounds for sale during the day. For more information on the farmers’ institute, visit www.coombsfarmersinstitute.weebly.com/.