APPLE KINGS AND PEAT BOG HUMOGEN (August 19/13)

“Berwick is the very center of the great apple growing industry,” notes an editorial about the town in a 1916 review of the Annapolis Valley.

The review was published in a special issue of the Busy East in Canada magazine (which later became the Atlantic Advocate) and it’s interesting since it mentions the proclaimed king of apple growing in Nova Scotia, Berwick’s famed Sam Chute, establishing his credentials as a prominent pioneer orchardist.

A while back I devoted a column to Mr. Chute, determining he was indeed a leading pioneer in apple growing.  I had erroneously claimed that William H. Chase deserved the title of apple king but the then editor of this paper, Sara Keddy, set me straight. Bottom line, Chute was the leading apple grower, Chase the man who marketed the apple crop with a genius unrivalled and making a fortune doing so.

Anyway, back to the Busy East, its Valley Review and the write-up on Sam Chute.  At the time of publication Sam Chute was hailed as the man “who has the largest orchard in the world.”  Chute, when asked if this true, asked in turn, “Who has one larger.”  At the time Chute had 40,000 apple trees and was busy planting more.  He was also prominent in establishing the United Fruit Companies, which had it headquarters in Berwick.

Berwick wasn’t alone in claiming to be the apple capital.  Wolfville made a similar claim at the time and it was also published in the Busy East.  “Wolfville is the center of the finest fruit-growing sections of Nova Scotia,” writes B. O. Davison, editor the town’s weekly, The Acadian.  Kentville’s mayor made a similar claim, but more on that later when I look at the Busy East’s review of Valley towns.

In this special edition the Busy East mentioned an unusual agricultural product I never heard of before, a product that apparently had the potential of making the Valley known far and wide for more than just apple growing.

That product was Humogen and here’s what the Busy East said about it:  “As the valley progresses, so will Berwick.  If the day comes when the immense Caribou Bog, which lies on Berwick’s western boundary, is made to produce Humogen, then, surely, will come an era of accelerated prosperity, for the lack of fertilizer is the valley’s greatest drawback.

“Humogen is a product discovered by Professor Bottomley, a noted scientist of the University of London.  Bog peat is inoculated with a bacteria discovered by Prof. Bottomley and the material is thus converted into soluble plant food.”

Nothing came of the project to convert the Aylesford peat bog into a massive fertilizer swamp.  The whole scheme apparently fizzled out when it was found Humogen wasn’t as effective as regular fertilizer and was costly and time consuming to produce and harvest.

It’s interesting though.  As well as once being the apple capital, we almost became the Humogen producing capital of Canada.

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