From his email address, which starts off “appleman,” to his colorful Web site, tougasfarm.com, Mo Tougas is all about apples. And now American Fruit Grower magazine has given him another title—2011 Apple Grower of the Year.
Tougas owns a 120-acre Pick Your Own operation, Tougas Family Farm, in Northboro, Mass. His farm is close to the geographic center of New England, a fitting location for a farm that was voted one of the 10 best apple orchards in the country by Woman’s Day magazine.
Tougas’ life centers around growing apples and several other fruits and his family—wife Phyllis and their children, Andre, Nicole, and April, all of whom have roles in the farm’s operation.
Tougas, who spent three years as an agricultural extension agent after URI (B.S. in natural resources, M.A. in education) married Phyllis in 1981 and a year later bought the pick-your-own farm.
His travels and exposure to other growers convinced Tougas that his customers would like to have more than a bag of fruit when they visited. As a result Tougas Family Farm is a place to have fun, enjoy food, and absorb all the sights and smells of a farming operation.
Children by the thousands descend on his farm via school tours—he estimates 15,000 this fall— and while he and his family host the children, they also hope to start modifying their eating habits—slices of apples rather than candy for example. “Juvenile diabetes is a real problem in this country,” he says, adding that more consumption of fruits and vegetables is part of the solution.
The Apple Grower of the Year is not content with traditional methods of growing fruit. Rather he has embraced and is experimenting with high density growing techniques that he witnessed on trips to Europe. He is promoting the techniques through talks, on-site demonstrations and even U-Tube videos. “The whole idea,” he says, “is to grow fruit, not trees.”
—Rudi Hempe ’63