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Specialty Crop Tour for Young Growers - Adams County Orchards

On November 17, 2015 the Young Grower Alliance came together to tour some Adams County Fruit Farms. Farms included Lerew Brothers Orchard, Bonny Brae Fruit Farm and McCleaf's Orchard.
YGA members taking it all in at Bonnie Brae Fruit Farm

YGA members taking it all in at Bonnie Brae Fruit Farm

YGA Enjoys Day of Learning, Networking While Visiting Adams County Farms

by: Steven Johnston, Apple Castle, New Wilmington, PA

On Tuesday, November 17, 2015 members of the Young Grower Alliance toured three Adams County farms. A group of over 30 gathered, representing orchards from across the Commonwealth.

First up was a visit to Lerew Brothers in Gardners. After introductions the group drove to the newly planted high density section of the orchard. An engaging discussion with the Lerew family ensued, with talk focusing on the progression of decreased tree spacing over the last few decades, as well as factors involved in determining what spacing of high density planting is suited for different locations and landscapes.

Next, we visited Bonnie Brae Fruit Farm, also in Gardners. Sarah Zost held our attention discussing their transition to a pay per picking sack system versus paying per bin. They have found a high level of buy-in from their best pickers and increased picking efficiency and speed without much increased bruising after adopting this system. As an interesting side note, we learned Bonnie Brae Fruit Farm is so named because of a visit from a Scottish Pastor in the 1800’s who remarked what a Bonnie Brae (Beautiful Hill) the farm was situated on. While here, Dr. Jim Shupp performed a hands on demonstration of pruning a Semi-Dwarf medium density orchard block.

Lunch was enjoyed at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Centere, and Judy Chambers, Penn State Extension, facilitated a focus group discussion of Farmers in Local Government. She asked the group questions about the challenges and opportunities of getting involved in local governance.

Our final stop of the day was McCleaf’s Orchard. We toured pieces of Cory’s diversified crops and orchards, with stops at the sweet cherries, peaches, apples, and hardy kiwis.

Throughout the day our hosting orchards welcomed the group openly and warmly, graciously answering our many questions. The spirit of sharing knowledge and tactics was in full force, and surely everyone picked up a tip or two to be implemented at their home orchard. Thanks go out to the host orchards, Dr. Jim Shupp for being our expert pomologist, and Erin Dugan and Dr. Tara Baugher for organizing the event. A good time was had by all.

Photos of YGA's 2015 Fall Tour