The humble roots of the apple business started in the 1600’s, brought here by the colonists. History has painted John Chapman (Appleseed) at the helm of the establishment of apples in the Northeast. And since he was born on September 26th, 1774, we celebrate that day as Johnny Appleseed Day.
Chapman is often depicted as a wanderer who randomly scattered apple seeds over the countryside. It is more likely that he was a traveler who, in exchange for goods or money, established new orchards for farmers and trained them in their care. He was somewhat of an entrepreneur who developed a niche market in a region destined to grow beautiful apples. His legacy and know-how have carried on through generations of family farms developing their own orchards up and down the East Coast.
The Lory Family.
“Anyone in the produce business knows it takes determination, capital and a certain amount of grit to be a farmer. Their days begin at sunrise and go well into the night. And the weight of harvest is heavy until you know everything has been picked. Those things never change,” says Brenda Briggs, VP of Sales and Marketing at Rice Fruit Co.
And while modern technology and developments have been invaluable to farmers growing fruit, one challenge also remains steadfast: the weather. Pennsylvania grower Clinton Lory said, “Our biggest challenge is the weather, which is the deciding factor in the quality of the fruit. In the spring, the bloom decides the crop size and sometimes the finish. In the summer, the rainfall decides the size of the fruit. At harvest time, the cool nights and warm days put the color on the fruit. If all of these factors are perfect then the fruit will be of best quality, but we do not live in a perfect world.”
Some people envision family farms as simple, quaint, and motivated only by the joys of a beautiful, uncomplicated lifestyle. In reality, they are sophisticated small businesses that provide food to people. In 2020, this is no small undertaking. Briggs says, “Success for many small growers also depends on a solid marketing partnership. Rice Fruit Company values its growers tremendously, and since September is one of our peak harvest months, it’s only fitting that we celebrate our growers a little extra, particularly this year.”