From Vancouver to the Okanagan and Back: Meet Apple Buyer Margaret Butschler

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By Matias Taylor

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.

Margaret at the Apple Festival
Margaret Butschler

After joining the Friends of the Garden in 2007, Margaret became an official Apple Buyer the following year alongside fellow FOG Linda Kearns. Since then, the two have made three trips to the Okanagan in search of the tastiest apples for the annual festival. While 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.

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. She enjoys the enthusiasm that guests 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 have spread to the whole event.

Margaret’s Insider Guide to this Year’s Apple Festival (Oct 15 & 16)

With over 70 varieties from more than 20 growers, this year the 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, in ample supply for the first time in years; as well as the tangy, newly named BC apple Salish, which is fantastic in pies, crumbles, and galettes.