The Beaver Valley
It is likely that apples were first planted in Ontario by settlers in the latter half of the 18th century. The first plantings in the Georgian Bay area were in the Beaver Valley in 1846. In 1859, the Ontario Fruit Growers Association was formed. The following observation on our region was included in the 1894 report to members.
"Mr. Mitchells’s apple orchard is worthy of attention. Here, as indeed all over this section, there is a good crop of apples, the best probably in the whole province, for the apple scab thus far has not become so prevalent in this northern section as it has in the southern districts. So successfully is the apple cultivated in this section that a large apple storehouse has been erected near Thornbury by Messrs Ingersoll & Hunt, where apples are stored in barrels and repacked for export just at such time during the winter season when they will bring the most money. Some of the principal varieties of apples grown for market in this district are Ben Davis, Spy, King, Baldwin, Ribston Pippin, Fameuse, Cayuga Red Streak, St. Lawrence and Golden Sweet, but of all kinds the most productive is Ben Davis."
Interestingly, of the apple varieties mentioned in 1894, only the Northern Spy is still grown locally on a commercial basis. Grey County currently produces more apples than any other county in Ontario. The Georgian Bay apple growing district produces 25% of Ontario’s apple crop on 4,000 acres of established orchards spread among 50 commercial apple growing operations. The moderating temperature of Nottawasaga Bay and the protective boundary created by the Niagara Escarpment produce a special climate confined to a small yet productive area.