Weekend customers frequently arrive expecting all of our apples to be sold U Pick with the expectation that this is just how orchards work. We, as growers are puzzled where this idea came from since it is fairly new and only small percent of all US grown apples are marketed this way. We didn’t start out as an apple orchard but gravitated in this direction because we realized that we were able to grow the kind of apples (sweet/tart, fresh and crisp) that many local apples lovers were looking for, but often, not able to find. For us, it’s always about the presenting a variety of excellent apples to meet all tastes. We have perhaps taken this to extremes by test growing new U of M selections, rare varieties from other areas and even growing out seedlings and selecting new varieties here at the farm. This last bit has worked out far better than expected and we offer, in season, half a dozen varieties of our own making including Kinderkrisp, which we have patented and is grown nationwide. All these small blocks of different varieties that we try to keep an eye on and use effectively don’t lend themselves to the concept of customers roaming the entire orchard, picking fruit wherever they want. The gap in expectations between growers who are interested in the best possible apples and customers who just want to pick some apples from the tree is large and sometimes leads to frustrations. We find it hard to briefly communicate our point of view. However, we are committed to meeting this demand more effectively and to find ways to make it work for people who want to pick their own and for us who need to control what happens in the orchard.
Marketing apples by “pick you own” is a concept that has rapidly become more popular. Enthusiasts are often surprised to find that an orchard is not devoted exclusively to u-pick. Extensive u-pick opportunities can cause complications for orchards planted to optimize varietal choice and quality in ways that are hard to explain in quick sound bites. This is a challenge that we at Fairhaven Farm have been grappling with in an attempt to make more u-pick opportunities available for our customers. Toward this end, we have planted an area that is somewhat separate and is on the way to other u-pick fields. This new u-pick planting includes varieties popular with consumers that ripen at different times of the season and improve in quality as they hang. In the mean time, we have been moving the u-pick area to an aisle in the orchard the provides some good choices for the u-pick customer. This week we have opened an aisle that has Intensity, sweet /tart variety, on one side and Kinderkrisp , a popular new sweet variety on the other. By moving the u-pick to other areas in the orchard we will be able to offer u-pick on weekends for the balance of October.