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Will America Follow Britain's Apple Orchard Trend?

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

In an article titled Apple Boom: Community Orchards on the Rise, the BBC explores why community orchards are booming, in response to Covid 19 lockdowns. It's common for people to flee from cities during times of great strife. Soaring urban housing costs, the remote work revolution, and the everlasting search for solitude and peace are among factors, as are major push events such as the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in the early '90s, and of course, the Covid 19 pandemic.

Apples are grown above 1600 ft, which squarely lands new home orchard owners in the foothill and mountain areas across the world. Populations in the Sierra Nevada mountain regions have grown steadily since 1815, with a tripling effect occurring between 1990 and 2040 (Duane, T. Human Settlement, 1850-2040). This is all good news for communities like ours. It's good for Fresno County's continued agricultural dominance, good for the apple industry (the more orchards, the better!), and good for the environment.

Orchards support the ecosystems of birds, bees, bats, and flies. Apple blossoms are a food source for pollinating insects and the knotted branches and trucks of trees provide a home for bats. The trees also remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen for us to breathe. Not to mention the psychological benefits of living half of your year among fragrant apple blossom and life-producing fruit!

Did you know an acre of apples will remove about 15 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year? That acre of planted trees also produces 6 tons of oxygen.

We hope America (and especially the eastern Fresno County Sierra Nevada foothills/mountains) adopts Britains latest home orchard buying boom, as well as their bacon rolls, because WHY HAVEN'T WE DONE THAT YET?! In anticipation, we thought we'd throw together some helpful articles and tips & tricks of the trade, from one home orchard family to another.

First, identify your goals:

  1. Are you buying an orchard to sell products to the public?

  2. Do you have a generational family farm that's been left to your trust?

  3. Is this a beautification project?

Your answers to these questions will help you decide the type, size, and amount of trees you'll want to plant, and on how many acres. We also like this article titled How to Choose Apple Varieties for the Home Orchard, by The Cook's Cook. The author goes into detail about the different varietals such as Cortland and Jonathan, a couple of varietals that we grow here at The Orchard at Meadow Lakes!

We've chosen to plant nine different varietals that bloom from one month to the next, so they're spaced out throughout the Fall from late September to mid-November. Here's a look at our Apple Harvest Calendar so you can get an idea:

We do this for a few reasons.

  1. It's very difficult to find these varieties in stores in our area, so people have to come to us for the good stuff.

  2. People love coming to the orchard throughout the season and having it open longer benefits everyone.

  3. We have a retail shop where we sell apples, coffee, pastries, and locally sourced handmade goods from the surrounding mountain and Central Valley communities. If we're open longer, we sell more stuff. *Note: We would also consider planting different crops during different times of the year (and we eventually will), if we could figure out a way to rid the planet of ground squirrels, deer, and bear. I kid, I kid. But we do lose between 15-35 per cent of the crops each year due to these beautiful nightmares. *The trick is to overwhelm them. The original owners planted nine acres (though, the farm is currently down to three), so even if you lose 25 per cent of your crops each year, you'll still produce enough to sell to the public and make a small profit.

  4. Planting hard-to-find varietals gives others the joy of finding a pretty little apple orchard in the mountains.

  5. As famous humanist Francesco Petrarch once said "Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure." We couldn't agree more. Not that we'll be disgusted by you if you decide to plant the same variety of apple trees across your orchard, we're just natural risk takers and appreciate a humanist perspective.

If you live in the state of California the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has a block grant for specialty crops in California. This can be helpful if you're looking for guidance and startup funds. We try to stay away from government grants, partially because we believe that time is money, and there's an awful lot of time ($$$) wasted in dealing with government entities (this is particularly acute in the state of California), and partially because once you accept the funds, you have to do it their way (which is totally doable, if you don't have 'oppositional defiance disorder'). But hey, if you're tight on funds and loose on time and patience, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program may be useful for you.

Another good source of information is your local nursery. If you're located in the foothills and mountains of eastern Fresno County, Intermountain Nursery has been a great resource for us. They have a well-trained staff available for "orchard audits" where they will come to your property and help you decide which trees would thrive in which microclimates. They also tend to be experts on healthy soils, pest mediation, and the latest irrigation and planting techniques. Building partnerships with entities like these is key to your success when caring for an apple orchard.

So, if you've given up on the cities due to the pandemic, high crime and housing costs, or you're on a search for a more grounded, healthy, and inspired approach to life, we salute you! Us too! However we can support your journey on becoming a specialty apple grower (especially in eastern Fresno County!), we certainly will. Give us a call or email us anytime, we love to chat about all things apples!

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