Who knew growing a delicious juicy apple was so complicated to grow, not to mention, labor intensive? Johnny Appleseed, today, would be arrested for malpractice! Not the same thing, you say. You are right! Today there is simply a lot of science, knowledge, and labor involved in growing a good apple.
Jeff Kemper, his brother and family practice this science, knowledge and hard work on their family’s orchard, Pleasant View Orchard, located just outside of Pleasant View in Shelby County. As in all farming, apple growing is not for the weak of heart. There’s lots of hard work, wrangling with Mother Nature, and business savvy involved. The Kemper family seems up to the challenge.
Shelby County Master Gardeners met Mr. Kemper at and during a tour of the orchard learned bits of information about apple growing. We’ll share a few with the reader.
Many apple trees are grafted. It is sometimes hard for small apple growers to buy trees or tree stock because larger companies who supply the apple orchards do business with large orchards only, in bulk, making it difficult for a small grower to find trees or grafting stock at affordable prices. That stated, smaller orchards can also provide lesser known or heritage varieties for more discriminating palates to enjoy.
Apple trees must be cared for and managed for pests year-round to provide the produce customers will want to purchase. Starting before the trees even bloom, this is a season-long endeavor to deliver fresh produce. The trees are even treated in colder months to ward off insect pests such as scale.
Pruning, staking, and spacing of trees must be done each year. The Kempers do it after Thanksgiving. A foot of old growth must be left, as new apples each year grow on the old wood. Pruning must also create good circulation of air between branches to discourage fungi growth.
Exactly how cold does it get when the apples or blossoms are damaged in spring? If it remains 27 degrees for four hours of more, damage is done. If trees have been sprayed when the cold snap hits, the buds may freeze and come off the trees, creating loss of labor, time and money invested in spraying.
What about the apples that fall off the tree to the ground? They can’t be sold, even if they are perfect apples, because of regulations. This was surprising to the Master Gardeners.
Harvesting happens in late summer or fall. The Kempers grow 20 varieties of apples. Customers can pick their own or buy pre-picked. Pumpkins are grown, too. The stand sells a variety of good things. Activities are offered in the fall. The Pleasant View Orchard is a nice orchard in a peaceful setting for Shelby County residents to visit and purchase produce. The Master Gardeners enjoyed their visit. Some even played a bit before leaving. (See the photo!)