Our First Year in Review

IMG_0859Entering our second season, we have much to look forward to!  At the same time, I think it’s important to also look back and review our past season.  What a whirlwind adventure this first year has been!  I call it our “learning year.” To think where we started: having no idea what varieties of apples we had, where they were, and when they would ripen.  We called it “Apple Clue.”  My kids love playing my old board game, Clue, and this has been much the same process… I believe it was Miss Paula Red, in the front orchard, with the red skinned flesh that made the applesauce turn pink!  We had a partial list of the varieties from old advertising on the internet, but finding which trees (or parts of a tree!) belongs to what variety has been quite a discovery process.  We’re still learning, but that’s part of the fun and excitement.

My favorite part in discovering all the apples was when we started our tastings in the farm store.  Cutting into the apples, seeing what they looked like on the inside, and tasting them is a large part of the identification process.  Having tasted not more than a handful of varieties before we moved to our orchard, I was in awe of all the different flavors and textures, along with learning their heritage.  Moving our apples into the farm store was a big change for us, transitioning mid year from pick-your-own.  The orchard had been PYO before us and without a good farm plan for picking, storing, and selling apples, we headed in the same direction.  However, we quickly realized that the orchard was not established to be PYO friendly.  It was designed with permaculture in mind, alternating varieties so as to disrupt the spreading of disease from one tree to another.  Good for our trees, but not so good for people trying to figure out which trees to pick from.  P.S. An unripe apple sucks the spit off your tongue!  There were many more reasons to bring the apples inside the farm store, but the decision was made when I got a call one Friday afternoon when I was at Common Ground Fair volunteering with my boys.  It was a stressful day for Farmer B to handle the orchard by himself, but a bus load of kids under 7 with very little supervision was enough to end PYO decisively.  One thing to note: we have poison ivy on the perimeter of the property and if you’re not sure if you are allergic to it, I do NOT suggest you deliberately rub it all over you to find out!

The word to describe last year is ABUNDANCE.  We walked into a bumper crop year with apples literally dripping from the trees.  We were not in any way prepared for the abundance of apples we got.  Watching apples hit the ground only creates very costly compost.  In order to grow a healthy business, we need to be efficient and utilize our whole crop.  That is where we are starting off this year, preparing to move forward into more processing.  Organic raw cider, cider vinegar and small batch hard cider is where we are focusing our efforts with the investment in renovating an existing barn into a cider processing facility and new high yielding cider equipment.  In addition, we developed an apple CSA that we will continue to offer each year before the start of the season.  New this year, the farm store will feature tea, coffee, baked goods, soaps, herbal preparations and other items from local vendors, and the loft will be opened as a lounge area to further enjoy your visit.  As the season progresses, we look forward to holding seminars and workshops at the farm as well.  

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With gratitude,

Ali & Family 🙂