Every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Apple Festival at UBC Botanical Garden draws in thousands of people eager to try all the delicious varieties of apples and join in the celebration of this fruit. And every year, a dedicated group of volunteers, the Friends of the Garden (FOGs), work tirelessly for months in order to put it all together. One of these volunteers is Margaret Butschler, who is going on her ninth year as a FOG. Margaret has been heavily involved in the buying and transporting of the stars of the show—the apples, of course—and has found fun, community, and friendship in her role as a FOG over the last decade.
After joining the Friends of the Garden in 2007, Margaret became an official ‘Apple Buyer’ the following year alongside fellow FOG Linda Kearns, and the two have made three trips to the Okanagan in search of the juiciest, freshest, tastiest apples for the annual festival. Once there, they stay at Wilfred and Sally Mennell’s orchard in Cawston, the place where the Ambrosia variety was discovered. They work with BC apple growers from Salmon Arm, down through the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys to the Fraser Valley. Margaret and Linda help promote these growers in the region, and they, in return, support the work the FOGs do at UBC Botanical Garden. This year, the growers are excited that the garden has an apple expert on staff that will help develop a new apple display in the food garden.
After making their journey from the Okanagan to Vancouver, the apples arrive at UBC Botanical Garden to be put on sale. With over 70 varieties from more than 20 growers, this year’s Apple Festival promises to be exceptional, with great colour and sweetness due to the cool start to the summer with heat at just the right time in August. Special varieties will be on sale, including a limited supply of Glockenapfel (excellent for strudel), which is sure to sell out; aromatic, honey-scented Cox’s Orange Pippin, available for the first time in years; as well as the tangy, newly named BC apple Salish, which is fantastic in pies, crumbles, and galettes.
Margaret’s favourite moments of previous Apple Festivals include walking through the crowds and seeing the joy that the apple treats bring to families and children every year while she answers questions from guests. She enjoys the enthusiasm that people have to purchase something to which she has devoted so much time and energy: “I love the moment we hear 40,000 pounds of apples of more than 70 varieties are SOLD OUT on a Sunday afternoon!”
Margaret loves contributing to UBC Botanical Garden and being a FOG for “the new learning opportunities and friendships”, and thinks the role “is just a lot of fun!” With how satisfied (not to mention full!) the Festival leaves its guests every year, it’s clear her spirit and enthusiasm has spread to the whole event.
Submitted by Matias Taylor, Marketing & Communications Assistant, October 6, 2016