world

29 October 2014

Brenton Roy

"My great grandfather started farming the Yakima valley at the turn of the century, around 1900, so I can claim roots that go back over a hundred years."

"It was my grandfather who moved from the upper valley—where they started—down to our current location. This area is a really nice place to grow apples. We’re in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range—technically in a desert. As that rain and snow falls it collects in reservoirs. So it's clean, pure water—the result of natural snow pack from the Cascade Mountain Range. I'm lucky to have a family farm because it's one of the few professions where you can grow up in the same place the parents work and see the product of their labor—quite literally—right outside their window. I don't think there are many professions that allow families to operate that way.

We have three daughters. They eat everything we grow and whenever I find a new apple, I try to bring home one or two to taste-test. That's the beauty of a kid. They tell you exactly what they think without any hesitation. Envy is my children's favorite apple. I've heard them say things like, "Juicy, Sweet and Crunchy." It is also my wife's favorite to serve the children because it doesn't brown, so she can cut the Envy apples up and put them in their lunch box, so when they get it out at school they’re just white, crisp, clean apples.

I was attracted to the Enza model in the way they plant proprietary varieties of apples and partner with the grower all the way through. I felt like it could be the future of family farms like ours so we jumped in with both feet. It's really been neat to visit New Zealand and have folks come and visit us up here. The exchange of knowledge and cooperation from almost opposite sides of the world has really been a fun experience. I think last year we were probably a third of the state's crop.

As other growers have eaten more Envy, seen more orchards and understood the desire from the consumer's perspective for the Envy apple they’ve basically confirmed what we believed. I’ve visited the mother trees in New Zealand and talked to the researchers who actually did the cross and chose Envy as the final product. None of the Enza apples are genetically modified. It is a long, arduous commitment to try to grow a new variety of apple using natural plant-breeding methods. What they do is isolate flowers on a given tree and collect pollen from another variety and physically apply the pollen to those flowers. That resulting piece of fruit will develop 6 to 8 seeds in an apple, generally, and each one of those seeds is as individual as a child from its parents. You plant those seeds, wait a few years and look at the thousands of apples, over several years, and try to isolate new varieties that actually have the traits you want.

There are no guarantees what attributes they’ll bring with them. It's a special deal because it's done through chance. It's done by people with passion, obviously. And when you can come up with a new variety in that manner it's something you can take pride in."

North America