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Fowler Farms bringing EverCrisp to SEPC show

Austin Fowler, owner of Wolcott, NY-based Fowler Farms, will head with four of his team members to SEPC’s Southern Exposure show this month, and given that he was just experiencing 0 degree temperatures and a wind-chill of negative 23, he’s thrilled to be flying to Orlando.

“For us in upstate New York, it’s really nice to have a nice warm climate to go to to take a break from the cold,” he said. “But of course, we really enjoy the show and appreciate the scale. It sets up like an old-fashioned farm market with buyers and sellers, and the intimate size is nice.”

The company has been in business since 1858, and Fowler noted that at the end of the day, the show is really about the relationships he and the company have made along the way.

2010-08-26 15-43-09 233 “It’s important to build upon our existing relationships and we really value the time we get to spend with our customers and hope to build new relationships to help us move into the future,” he said. “The whole premise of getting out in front of the customers is a valuable one for us.”

Fowler Farms has had a booth at Southern Exposure for the better part of a decade and this year will be showing a couple of varieties of apples that it is bringing to the show for the first time.

“This is our first year selling EverCrisp apples and we’ve done well with them,” Fowler said. “We’ll be featuring some packaging innovation with new packaging for many varieties of apples in the 2-pound pouch bags. We also have some 4-pound pouch bags.”

Those in the apple industry are always curious about what’s trending and what’s new and different coming down the pike, and Fowler looks forward to having these conversations at the show.

At Fowler Farms, we are a completely vertically integrated organization so our hands are dirty— we’re growing the root stocks, we’re growing the orchards, packing, storing, shopping and marketing, so we are comfortable answering any questions people come up with,” Fowler said. “From sustainability to crop protectants being used, we can help.”

As one of the only commercial apple growers on the East Coast growing organic — the company has upped its totals to 45 acres of organic apples — Fowler noted that creates some unique challenges but he’s happy talking about that as well.

“Overall business has been good, but there are not as many apples as everyone expected,” he said. “We came out of the gate and the whole country thought it was going to be a large crop prior to the harvest, if not a record crop, and that didn’t happen. Washington is going to be down, Michigan was off on their estimates and I think New York is going to be right where they thought. The market is stable and the demand for the newer varieties like Honeycrisp and SweetTango and SnapDragons is up, so the market is pretty good at this point.”

As with most farms, Fowler admitted labor continues to be a challenge, especially when they have in excess of 500 people on the payroll at the height of harvesting season. To help, the company houses all of its seasonal workers and is adding another 60-person facility to the farm in 2019.

Fowler Farms also recently added approximately 12,000 bins of controlled atmosphere storage and are planning numerous things around the farm to improve operations and be more efficient, all in the interest of providing the best apples at the best prices for their customers.