Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce honours Delhaven Orchards
June 05, 2015
After more than 50 years in business, a family-run farm near Cedar Springs still relies on doing its homework and trying new technology to remain competitive.
Delhaven Orchards, owned by the Delanghe family, began in the summer of 1961.
The business was formally recognized Friday as the feature industry of the month by the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce.
Delhaven, at 8182 Talbot Trail W., consists of 400 acres of apples, peaches, sweet cherries, pears, apricots, nectarines, strawberries, soybeans, tomatoes, corn and wheat.
Besides growing crops, they also produce apple cider on the farm, along with pitted sweet and sour cherries.
“It's certainly a great honour to be chosen feature industry of the month for Chatham-Kent and especially since this Agriculture Week in Ontario,” said Hector Delanghe.
Delanghe,76, is a longtime leader and innovator in Canada's horticulture industry, receiving a special Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association at their 150th anniversary.
He's a strong a believer in testing varieties on the farm to find the best strains of apples, particularly for winter hardiness.
In recent years, they have adopted new technology to be more efficient while reducing their impact on the environment.
Delhaven is among the latest farms to use unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to scout their fields for crop problems such as damage caused by mites.
“It cost us $7,000 for a miticide,” said Delanghe. “If the drone can pick out the spots where (the problem) is at, we'll just go in and spray in that spot.”
They also used a planter, equipped with GPS and auto-steering, to plant a new orchard of 7,000 trees, spaced exactly 39.5 inches apart.
While noting that the new technology makes agriculture exciting, Delanghe added it's also important for the bottom line.
“In our horticulture industry, we're going to have to cut our costs 40% over the next five to eight years to stay in this market,” he said.
The tour also went through the cider operation and the controlled atmosphere rooms.
Hector's son Mark explained that the rooms are designed to control the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels to slow the respiration rates of the apples.
It allows the apples to be stored for as long as eight months while maintaining their freshness and quality.
“And the crunch, the taste and the flavours are still there,” he said.
Delhaven employs five full-time staff, 18 seasonal workers and 10 summer students.
They have won several awards for their cider and captured first-place at the Royal Winter Fair in 2014 for their Red Delicious apples.
Hector was inducted in the Kent County Agricultural Fame in 2002 and was inducted the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2013.
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