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The perfect apple fit for a Prince

Buy local. Buy fresh. That’s the advice we are getting from food experts and environmentalists. By doing so you’ll be helping preserve the environment, and you’ll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home, the argument goes.

But how do you keep your promise to buy local foods, and also have a variety in your diet when staple items are only in season at certain times of the year?

Kevin Martin of Martin's Family Fruit Farm is touting the virtues of the Red Prince, a new variety of apple growing at the company's St. Jacobs-area orchard.

Members of staff at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm in Woolwich Township are taking the first step to tackle that challenge, and are currently marketing a new item – the Red Prince apple. Its first widespread introduction into the Ontario marketplace happened at the start of February, a time when most other apples on the shelves here are imports. The Red Prince’s unusual prime season gives it a niche in an otherwise overcrowded market.

“It’s exciting because we have found an apple that actually gets better the longer you store it,” said Martin’s president Kevin Martin. “Some apples get worse for wear after a while but the Red Prince stays crisp and the flavour actually gets better with time.”

The Red Prince apple was discovered in 1994 in an orchard located on the German/Holland border in a small town called Weert. The farm’s owners noticed one of their apple trees had produced a beautiful red apple among a sea of green apples. At the time, they believed it was a gift from Mother Nature and later discovered that it had been developed through the natural crossing of two varieties: the Jonathan and the Golden Delicious.

In 2001, Irma and Marius Botden, co-owners of Global Fruit in Thornbury, planted their first Red Prince trees in Ontario. Nine years later, as exclusive growers in Canada, they, alongside the staff at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm who are helping to market the product, are excited to introduce the Red Prince apple to Canadians.

Recognized for its red skin, rich with antioxidants according to Martin, the Red Prince has inherited a number of characteristics from its ‘parents’: the sweetness and juiciness of the Golden Delicious and the crispness and tanginess of the Jonathan.

The biggest challenge with marketing a new apple however is the hurdle of getting people to change their eating habits, said Martin.

“People will go into a store and pick up a Macintosh because it’s familiar. They’ve tried Macintosh, they like Macintosh. Why try something new?” he explained. “It’s our job to get people to pick it up for the first time. Once they do we are confident that they will like it.”

To raise awareness about the new product, the team of marketers at both farms have developed something called the 30 Day Civility Challenge, which encourage people to do a kind act for someone else every day.
“The theme of the civility challenge goes along with the prince idea,” explained Martin. “It can be tough to create a brand around food but we think by encouraging people to do good things and eat a healthy, local product, we can’t really go wrong.”

The Red Prince apple is currently sold in Sobey’s, Loblaw and Longo’s stores in Ontario, as well as locally at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm and the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.

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