Good Fruit Grower

September 2013

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The Boyers of Chestnut Ridge I n Pennsylvania, almost all the apples grow in Adams County. Both farms have been expanding. Dan and his wife Lois have But 90 miles west, there's a ridge—Chestnut Ridge—where fruit expanded the acreage at Ridgetop from the original 140 acres at Ridgetrees, mostly apples but also peaches, pears, and cherries, grow as top Orchards to 450 and this year created a limited liability company, an densely as anywhere in the country. About five miles long and a mile LLC, to take into ownership their two sons, Seth, 34, and Mark, 25. wide, the ridge is wall-to-wall trees and is dominated by the orchard Boyer Orchards has grown to more than 300 acres, including some operations of three brothers—Dan, Matt, and Bruce Boyer—and their land rented from other orchard owners. The Boyers are the major wives, and five sons, and their wives, and young children in another orchard operators on Chestnut Ridge. generation. Matt and Bruce have also done extensive transition work to bring in The Boyers, Dan and Matt, are well known in the fruit production their sons. Matt and Ellen are parents to Wesley, 32, and Sam, 26. Bruce world. They travel and learn, and pracand Janet are parents to Ben, 23. tice what they learn. Dan, 59, is on the Ridgetop board of the International Fruit Tree Both of the orchard enterprises are mainly wholesale operations, but Association. Not surprisingly, the Boyers' each does some retail. orchards were a destination on the IFTA's Dan and Lois at Ridgetop have a packing house where they pack summer conference pretour. Visitors apples under the Ridgetop name, and sales are made through brokers. came to their farms in Bedford County on They retail about 5 percent of the crop. their way the summer conference, which They also operate a pick-your-own sweet cherry operation. Seth said centered around Gettysburg and Adams by Richard Lehnert they plan to start a retail store in nearby Fishertown. "It's not very handy County two hours away. for people to trek through the mud to come to the packing house for Chestnut Ridge runs north and south, apples," he said. so Dan Boyer and his family get the morning sun on the east side of the That is also part of their plan to double their cold storage capacity to ridge, and Matt and Bruce and their families get the afternoon sun. "I 200,000 bushels and extend their packing season. Now, don't think it makes much difference," Dan said. Depends what they can't store or pack and sell during the harvest on whether you like beautiful sunrises or beautiful sunseason goes to Hess Brothers Fruit in Leola, Pennsylvasets, Matt says, adding that his place on the sunset side nia. They are also members of Knouse Foods, which take takes a little longer to warm up in the spring. their off-grade apples and also some varieties they grow Matt and Bruce both earned horticulture degrees from for processing. Pennsylvania State University and, in 1989, bought Boyer "We grow fifteen varieties," Dan said. These span the Orchards from their parents. Their father, Allan, was fully season from Paulared and Ginger Gold early to Rome employed as a steel worker, Matt said, and Allan and his —Dan Boyer Beauty, Fuji, Cameo, and Pink Lady late, with McInsons ran the orchard, which he started in 1957, as a side tosh, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Cortland, Stayman, York, Golden business. D elicious and lots of Red Delicious in between. In 1976, Dan, the oldest of the three brothers, had gone to work for a Red Delicious apples sell very well in the Caribbean and Central neighboring orchardist and four years later bought that farm, naming it America, Dan said, where red apples are good Christmas gifts. Both Ridgetop Orchards. Boyer operations grow Red Delicious as their major variety, and Matt "Chestnut Ridge got its name from the American chestnut," Dan said. said they planted 4,000 trees of the variety last year. "They say the ridge was once snow white with chestnut blossoms." Like many eastern growers, they have been shifting from processIn 1916, chestnut blight struck in the United States, killing millions ing varieties to fresh market ones. "We still need to spread our varieties of giant trees that dominated the forests of the eastern United States. at harvest," Seth said. "We have 50 acres of Honeycrisp, and they and By 1930, only stumps were left, some of which still put out sprouts that McIntosh and Gala all come at the same time. We also need a good late are doomed to die later. No one has yet found a cure for the disease, or a variety, and we're trying Pink Lady and Aztec Fuji." resistant American chestnut strain. Visitors at Ridgetop saw a new orchard, "Seth's orchard," which sits Gradually, the transition to fruit, mostly apples, converted Chestnut on virgin ground planted in 2009. The Brookfield Ridge. Three families operate two large orchard operations in Pennsylvania. "We grow fifteen varieties." 26 SEPTEMBER 2013 Good Fruit Grower

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