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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Guest Blogger - Mrs. Apple - with the State of the Orchard Address

Hi everyone! I am taking a break from your regularly scheduled blog post to bring you a spring update from a local celebrity: Mrs. Apple.  As some of you know, that's my mom! She wanted to be a guest blogger for the week and use my blog as a platform to get the word out about how the apples and peaches are doing after this hard hard winter.  So take it away mama!...

They call me Mrs Apple. 

Over 5000 children and parents visit Kercher's Orchard each fall for a fun and educational field trip led by none other than me, Mrs Apple! It is my favorite time of year!! 

Who doesn’t enjoy a field trip or a weekend outing where you get to eat delicious apples fresh off the tree!!! And lets not forget about the hayrides, pumpkin pickin', corn maze, apple cider, donuts, and enter more yummy fall goodness here.

 For those of you that don’t know me, my real name is Maureen Kercher and I married Tom (fruit grower, farmer, agra businessman extraordinaire). 33 years ago I became a farmer’s wife and little did I know what that would mean for me!! 

Mr. Apple with grandson Max

We are also the parents of Laura who is this blog’s writer and “The Nurse”!  Growing up she looked like this:

Little Laura

Laura was our third and youngest child and we always said that we had her solely for our entertainment. When you read her blog, keep that in mind when you find yourself laughing!

Tom was born into a farming family and is a 4th generation fruit grower. It is a difficult job trying to battle the weather, bugs, diseases, and continually changing desires and tastes of our customers. As Tom always says, “If it were easy, everyone would be growing their own fruit.”  After what I have witnessed these last 33 years, I see no fault with that statement.

It takes a huge leap of faith to be a farmer. And for us, it takes the 4P’s : Preparing, Planting, and Pruning. The 4th and very important P is PRAYING. Nothing is a guarantee in farming. We do loads of work, hoping and praying that the current crop of apples, pumpkins, sweetcorn, squash, tomatoes, cabbage, peaches, melons and peppers make it through to harvest. Something as small as a 5 minute hail storm can take it all and leave us with nothing but bills and no way to pay those bills.  It makes us faith-filled farmers!!  We've had some partial losses through the years which have been hard.  But thankfully we have only had two complete crop losses over the years.  One in 1992 after a bad hail storm and then, more recently, in 2012 when we had some early warm weather in March followed by a hard frost.  


Which leads me to why I wanted to write this post in the first place.


It takes a whole year to grow an apple or a peach! Apple and peach buds begin to be developed on a tree in mid summer where they hang out beside the fully matured apples.  Once the apples are picked, then it's the bud's time to shine. They are dormant all fall and winter, and start to swell and open in the spring of that year. They are pollinated by honey bees in May, and the fruit grows all summer until harvest time. One whole year from start to finish! …….. It can be a very long year! 

It's probably not surprising to hear that weather during spring, summer, or even fall can affect our crops, but few realize that we can lose a whole crop of fruit in the winter from very cold temperatures. A peach or apple crop can be frozen out in January, February, or March if the temps plummet in the subzero range - which would mean we would have nothing to harvest and sell in late summer and fall.
Do you hear an "uh oh" coming?...

Apple buds are unable to withstand temperatures any lower than -20 and peach buds, -10. At these temperatures we start seeing extensive damage. This winter we had temperatures at -17 several times over January and February. So you see we have reason to believe the whole peach crop has been damaged but we are feeling confident that the apple crop is probably just fine. Phew!

But what about the peaches?!! 
Being the forever optimists (it takes that to be a sane farmer), we would hope that a few of the peach buds may have survived.  But we don't want to have to wait around for the blossoms to show up later this spring. (I said we were optimistic, not patient.)  So this week Tom cut and brought in some peach branches with peach buds on them and put them in a vase of water. His plan is to trick the branches into thinking that it is spring! In about a week from now the fruit buds will tell us the truth about this year’s crop or lack of crop so come on back next Sunday to find out what we've found.  Live bud or dead bud.
I hope that you have been enlightened by my ramblings!  Our farm market will be opening back up in early May.  Come and see us for flowers, morel mushrooms, and hopefully peaches!! Also, like us on facebook and visit our website for more information and updates.  
-Mrs Apple

Thanks mom! I know you will all be joining me in prayer for those peaches! I will have a pretty unhappy hubby if there aren't any homegrown peaches to be had this summer.  

Have you all had the pleasure of coming to the orchard?  What's your favorite Kercher's Orchard memory/tradition?  Any burning questions for Mrs. Apple?