- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - Rising costs have prompted some Central Virginia apple growers to change their production methods.

Many orchards have bought smaller trees or dwarf trees, which are easier to prune and harvest. The smaller trees reduce labor costs and require fewer ladders.

“That’s just the reality for what we’re dealing with,” Jim Saunders, owner of Saunders Brothers, told The Nelson County Times (https://bit.ly/1usDNqw). “We want to harvest fruit as close to the ground as you can get it. Labor is expensive, equipment is expensive, but the beauty of it is (customers) are coming right to the source to get the fruit and not buying it through a third hand. You go right to the orchard and buy it fresh picked.”

The family-owned Drumheller’s Orchard reduces labor costs by putting family members to work.

“We’re always trying to lower costs,” Doris Drumheller told the newspaper. “The cost of raising a crop of apples is enormous. You have to try and cut corners. Everything you use and everything you do has gotten to be more expensive.”

Morris Orchard in Amherst has begun planting more varieties of apples and apples that are more resistant to disease.

“It used to be where you could raise red and golden delicious, and people would be happy,” owner Judy Barnes told the newspaper. “Now, people want the newer varieties in addition to the traditional ones.”

Morris Orchard raised prices this year by a small percentage because of increased costs, from insurance to the bags that are given to customers, she said.

While costs have risen, growers said this year’s apple season has been good.

“All fruit has been really good this year and flavorful,” Saunders said. “The other day, I had an apple and had to grab a napkin to wipe the juice off my chin - and that’s such a good thing to happen.”


Information from: Nelson County Times.

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