Peaches, blackberries and apples abound this summer in Lynchburg-area orchards | Local business news

Central Virginia farmers have been able to breathe easy — at least for the summer — as their fruit crops are mostly in full bloom and are sticking around even longer than usual for pickers this season. At the Saunders Brothers Farmers Market in Nelson County, a frost in mid-April helped create unusually larger apples and peaches.

Jim Saunders, owner of Saunders Brothers Farm Market in Nelson County, said there were two days in mid-April when the temperature hit 20 degrees and it was very windy.

“And so far, we felt pretty good about growing fruit. I think it was about two days there and what it did was we sold a lot of apples and peaches it basically thinned us out and you very rarely see that,” he said. he declares. “Which is very interesting,” Saunders said. “I’ve never seen it happen like this before. There are a ton of flowers with fruits and you only need 15%-20% of those flowers to make it a fruit because you have so many flowers.

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Those blossoms will eventually grow into a peach or an apple, but farmers have to go there later, sometimes with a chemical, but usually by hand, to create six inches between each fruit, Saunders said.

“But this year Mother Nature did it for us,” he said. “That little cold blast that we had kind of thinned out the fruit all over the orchard, and most of the time what it will do is it will kill everything at a lower elevation and you won’t you won’t have any fruit there and at a higher altitude you will have all the fruit and you will have to go there and thin it out.

Eli Sasko examines his bucket of blackberries at Morris Orchard on Friday.

Brent Tyrell, for The News & Advance

That means bigger, juicier fruit for customers due to higher levels of rain, Saunders said.

“We had a good year this year, at least in our orchard,” he said. “We had damage at the start of some of these frosts in March. We had some damage, but overall we have good fruit harvests this year. »

He said the cherry crop was light this year and was basically killed off by those two colder days in April.

Morris Orchard in Amherst County also experienced an early spring frost which impacted how long his apples and peaches bloomed, but despite the weather he is still seeing a good harvest of fruit this summer. , said owner Judy Barnes.

The orchard still has plenty of peaches and blackberries, she says, and she expects them to stay for a few more weeks.


Misty mountains near Morris Orchard are shown on Friday August 12, 2022.

Photo by Brent Tyrrell, for The News & Advance

“Spring was kind of hot and cool, hot and cool, and that caused the blackberries to have an extended bloom, which extended their season, so normally I’d say now, ‘We’re rolling the blackberries,’ but they’re still full throttle,” she says.

All crops depend on spring weather, Barnes said, and farmers hate to see an early spring because if the fruits bloom early, they are more susceptible to frost or frost.

“You know what the weather is like in Virginia. It can feel like summer one day and winter the next,” she said. “So we just like to have a nice moderate spring. Even a late spring is good.

Then the orchard prepares for apples and pumpkins, which need less moisture and some timely rain.


Morris Orchard offers fruit throughout the various growing seasons. U-pick blackberries are popular this time of year.

Photo by Brent Tyrrell, for The News & Advance

As the pumpkins get closer to ripening, Barnes is hoping for drier weather.

Gross Orchard, run by Ronnie Gross and his father, Walter, has had a successful growing season because it is located in a microclimate just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Flat Top, one of the Peaks of Otter.

“We’ve been very lucky with rainfall, which is critical for growing fruit as well as the type of farm-related products,” Gross said.

The orchard is about halfway through the season with loose pit peaches and expects a good apple harvest with Gala and Ginger Gold apples being harvested.

“We have the biggest apple crop we’ve had in probably 30 years,” he said. “It’s just the dice roll, nothing we’ve done that much. The way to make money in this business is to keep your orchard young. If you have old trees it will cost you money and we have replanted and replanted and replanted. Believe me, every year we planted at least 150 to 500 trees depending on the type. And that’s why you stay in business; you can’t stay in business with old trees.


Kelsey, Eli and Susanna Sasko wrap up their day of blackberry picking at Morris Orchard’s produce center on Friday, August 12, 2022.

Photo by Brent Tyrrell, for The News & Advance

He says it’s expensive on the front, but the gain on the back is very lucrative.

The orchard started the season with cherries and later expanded to pears, tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, peaches and nectarines.

He saw most customers come to the orchard in the morning and finished picking by 11 a.m. or noon because of the heat this summer.

“We have picnic pavilions and places where they can cool off and refreshments. And our homemade peach ice cream,” Gross said. “The warm weather I think naturally causes people to come earlier and so we’ve seen some busier than usual mornings.”


Judy Barnes, owner of Morris Orchard, poses for a photo outside the commodity shopping center on Friday August 12, 2022.

Photo by Brent Tyrrell, for The News & Advance

Now is a good time to stock apples, which save well and are quite inexpensive, Gross said.

“This is a great opportunity for people to put a food supply in their pantries, basements and fridges and be prepared in case we have a harsh winter or our food supply chain is down. upset,” he said.

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