It’s harvest time at Packer’s Orchard
ADENA Packer’s Orchard has deep roots in the area. Since 1917 the family owned and operated orchard has provided a market of Ohio-grown produce.
“It’s been a family business since 1917,” said William Packer, owner with wife Marty Packer, adding that his grandfather started the business. “Apples and peaches are the main thing we grow.”
They grow 13 varieties of apples. Packer added that they also offer a selection of vegetables, cornstalks, pumpkins and other gourds.
The orchard occupies 30 acres of the Packers’ land off U.S. 250. In more recent years, the orchard was reduced from 70 acres. The Packers are currently concentrating on retail sales at their market rather than wholesale.
The orchard market is open every weekend from August to October, but the business is a year-round occupation. During the winter months, trees are pruned and the Packers keep abreast of the business by attending meetings that focus on the latest fruit growing techniques.
“Of the 12 months of the year, you’re doing something different every two or three months,” said Packer. “It’s a 12-month job.”
Though they are only open weekends, they are busy seven days a week June through October. He added that he grew up with that fact of life.
“As a kid, you knew that was your way of life,” he said. “You grew up knowing harvest time you’re here day and night.”
Last winter they removed all the trees 25 years old and older and planted 250 new trees in the spring. The oldest fruit producing tree is 15 years old.
“By doing that, we have a better size apple that people want to buy,” he said. “Roadside markets and retail businesses are driven by what the customers want.”
He noted that all their products and all items for sale were raised in Ohio.
“We emphasis everything is either ours or locally grown,” he said. “We are firm believers in helping the local economy.”
In maintaining the trees’ health, some of their chief worries are worms and other vermin.
“We don’t spray any more than we have to, to raise a product people want to buy,” he said, noting that added spraying would necessitate an increase in cost. “We try to keep it small and keep within reason.”
Mildew and blight is another issue to watch. Recent weather has been either extremely dry or wet, meaning a lower quality yield this year. Packer noted that last week saw the loss of 20 bushels of apples.
“There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s Mother Nature,” he said.
The cost of apple trees is about $12-$15 each, and dwarf trees also require metal stakes or trellises.
Packer said prospective new orchard owners face challenges getting into the business. He estimates about six years from planted the first tree until an orchard owner will begin to show a profit.
“You’re investing money in a produce for six years and not really getting much return,” he said. “It’s a long-term investment. You’d better be prepared to be in it for the long term.”
He said rules and regulations from the Food Safety Act also complicate matters. The Packers are required to document every spraying, when and using what chemicals, which creates excess paperwork.
“It’s very time consuming,” he said.
Other regulations make an extensive emphasis on domestic animals but ignore wildlife.
He added the opinion that while the regulations are necessary and address legitimate concerns, legislators are often disconnected from the concerns of the average farmer. He said some of the regulations do not apply to small growers, which was one motive for reducing the size of their operation.
He added that for him the rewards have been worth the work.
“You have to love raising fruit,” he said. “You plant and raise a product people want to eat. There’s the pride and joy of raising products people want to consume to have a healthy body and life.”
Packer graduated Ohio State University in the field of horticulture and works as a field representative with Greenstar fruit and vegetable co-op.
Packer’s Orchard is located at 746 U.S. 250. They are open Saturday 9 a.m. to 5p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
For more information, call (740) 359-6693. The orchard has a Facebook page.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com