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The apple of Federated Co-op's eye

Oogley Veggies and Fruits to supply Co-op stores with 2.2 million pounds of apples

Federated Co-op is getting its B.C. apples a few weeks earlier, thanks to a preferred supplier agreement with an orchard that grows its apples in a microclimate. Oogley Veggies and Fruits is supplying Co-op Food Stores with 2.2 million pounds of McIntosh, Royal Gala, Spartan, Ambrosia and Honeycrisp this year. The apples are grown in a microclimate in B.C.’s Similkameen Valley. Valley walls at the more than 200-acre orchard retain heat and an aquifer running beneath the valley serves as a natural irrigation source. “It’s great conditions there for growing early apples. In a typical year they would have apples two weeks earlier than the rest of B.C.,” says Brian Lewis, director, produce at The Grocery People, a subsidiary of Federated Co-operatives that runs the Co-op’s produce program . “We knew there were early apples out of B.C. and we were interested in pursuing that,” he says of the relationship with Oogley. Oogley is one of Co-op’s two preferred suppliers for apples. The other supplier is B.C. Tree Fruits based in the Okanagan, whose apples usually come to market two weeks later than Oogley. Oogley harvests its McIntosh and Royal Gala apples in the last week of August. Mid-September is devoted to Spartan, while Ambrosias are ready in the third week of September and Honeycrisp apples come out in the fourth week of September and run for two weeks. Apples from Oogley are not sorted by size and are wax-free. Co-op started its relationship with Oogley last year on a smaller scale, with the orchard only supplying the retailer’s Calgary distribution centre “just to make sure we had all the kinks out of the system and the quality was there,” Lewis says. “This year, we’ve rolled it straight across the West.” This year, Oogley is supplying all of Co-op distribution centres in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Co-op does not buy all of Oogley’s apples but the orchard does not sell to other conventional retailers, like Sobeys, Superstore or Safeway, Lewis says. Co-op is supplied with B.C. apples year-round, except between March and May. The retailer also gets apples from Washington and New Zealand.

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