Road Trip Provides Hands-On Educational Opportunity [Opinion]

My mom, Regina, recently joined me on a road trip to upstate New York to visit Apple Grower of the YearSM Rod Farrow’s orchard as well as a few other orchards to research for future stories. As a schoolteacher on summer break, it was a nice treat for my mother to see what I do and to get a snapshot of what modern apple orchards look like.


Essentially she got a crash course in horticulture and a working knowledge of what I know in two days.

We looked at training systems, new varieties, and even talked profitability of blocks. We went wine and hard cider tasting, and I even persuaded her to go sweet cherry picking one rainy afternoon. Thank goodness for high tunnels!

The car rides in-between stops were a time for me to answer questions she might have and fill in the gaps about what she saw and understood.

She marveled at the type of production systems that you have in place and just how much effort is put into the trees you cultivate.

But, what struck her the most was the pride you have in what you do. She was truly awestruck at the care and the lengths you go to get your apples to be high quality.

At one point she said of one grower, “His face lit up when we started talking about his trees.”

The more orchards we visited, the more she began to see those little decisions you make — how much to thin, what varieties to plant, how to best get light into the canopy — all impact the end quality of the apple she eats.

While it was just another day or two at the office for me, affirming what I’ve been hearing over the past few years, this trip really opened my mother’s eyes to what it means to be an apple grower in the 2010s.

You can bet my mom will tell her friends about what she learned and she saw, and I know that will have a ripple effect on how her friends perceive the tree fruit industry. Not to mention how she talks to her students about what she saw!

I know ridealongs aren’t necessarily possible for every apple consumer, but it’s important to increase our touch points as our world gets a little smaller every day. I’ve noticed many of you are using social media to give consumers (and nosy editors like myself) a glimpse into your day-to-day activities in your orchards and farms.

I think it’s great that you’re opening up a dialogue between your operation and your consumers. It’s important they know what type of diseases, weather, or insect pest pressure you face, and how all of those factors influence your management strategies.

The more our consumers learn about how much time and energy it takes to grow the fresh fruit they eat, the better appreciation they will have for your role in the process.

I know how much my mom took away from our little road trip. Imagine how much the rest of your consumers would learn?