County cider-making legend Grant Howes is being inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame (OAHF) in June – among six leaders who have positively influenced Ontario agriculture.
Richard Grant Howes was nominated by his wife and partner Jenifer Dean, who continues their vision at the company as cider maker and managing director. The County Cider Company founder died suddenly at his Waupoos home in 2017. He was 60 years of age. Dean spoke to his commitment, vision and tireless efforts that significantly advanced the interests of Ontario apple growing.
“Howes was a visionary leader in apple growing and specifically cider production, pioneering innovative practices and technologies in developing cider orchards that enhanced productivity and sustainability within the industry,” noted Dean, adding that he was a vocal advocate for Ontario apple growing at the local and provincial levels.
“As the craft cider sector grew in Ontario, Grant was a mentor to many always willing to share ideas and work with new cideries. His initiatives also helped Ontario cider apple farmers adopt more environmentally-friendly farming techniques.”
Howes’ commitment to collaboration was a driver for the establishment of the Ontario Craft Cider Association of which he was a founding member. He was also a founding member of Fruit Wines of Ontario, and Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association.
Howes established a 50-acre pick your own orchard in Adolphustown with his brother Bill Howes in 1982; helped to run the home farm, Howes Orchards in Waupoos, Prince Edward County, from the mid 1970s until his passing in 2017, and planted the first vinifera grape vineyard in Lennox and Addington in 1999.
Dean recalls that while working in finance in both Ontario and B.C., he kept on top of developments at the family farms, planting both dessert/culinary apples and specialized heritage/cider apples.
The County Cider Company was his labour of love and was established in 1996.
“Grant was not content to just make cider from the existing apples on the farm and his passion for cider making extended into the orchards as he sought out the best varieties of heritage and cider specific apples to add more complexity, backbone and tannin to his ciders.
“He bought nursery rootstocks and hand grafted his own trees with cuttings he collected from wherever he could. He laid out new blocks of apple trees on dwarf rootstocks and with various styles of row spacing and trellising. He researched and learned how to hand graft and would spend hour upon hour doing that back-breaking work himself.”
Howes, in 2009, was a recipient of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for his work producing and promoting Ontario Ice Cider. Dean notes the positive impact on the agricultural sector is being able to utilize almost worthless apples in a very high quality, value added produce.
“He also lobbied each incoming government for fair taxation and recognition of hard cider and in 2017, one month after his passing, the Small Cider and Distillery Rebate Program was announced by the provincial government, in no small part because of his continued advocation over the years. His ability to adapt to changing agricultural and political landscapes while driving innovation was commendable.”
The 2024 induction ceremony is to take place Sunday, June 9 at the Gray Way Event Centre in Elora. Howes joins Bert Andrews, Ron Bonnett, Bill Gray, Verner Toews and Tina Widowski as those selected by the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association as worthy candidates based on their life-long commitments to Ontario’s agriculture.Source : County Live