Drought lingers across Northwest

More hot and dry weather is expected to hang around the Pacific Northwest, exacerbating drought conditions that have gripped the region.

As of Aug. 23, every corner of Oregon, Washington state and Idaho is experiencing some stage of drought, from “abnormally dry” to “extreme,” according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

The result is a summer filled with wildfires belching smoke that has impacted air quality for days at a time, and low stream flows prompting water regulators to curtail deliveries in some basins.

The worst conditions appear to be in western Oregon, which is reeling from a historic lack of rainfall in some areas. The National Weather Service reports the city of Salem had gone 78 straight days without any significant rain as of Wednesday, and will likely break the record of 79 consecutive days set in 1967. Other parts of the region did get a few light showers last weekend and Monday.

Overall, Oregon precipitation is averaging 86 percent of normal, while stream flows are averaging less than 50 percent of normal — ranging from 30 percent in the John Day Basin to almost 80 percent along the South Coast.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency in nine counties: Lincoln, Douglas, Klamath, Lake, Harney, Grant, Wheeler, Baker and Morrow. Ken Stahr, surface water program manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department, said he has been surprised by how widespread this year’s drought is.

“I think we saw some of this coming over the winter,” Stahr said, referring to low mountain snowpack and rapid snowmelt in May. “We had kind of a late series of storms where we thought it may help. But by May, it was gone.”

Ivan Gall, administrator for the Field Services Division at OWRD, works with the 21 local watermasters across the state. He said they have largely had to begin regulating water deliveries sooner, curtailing junior users to satisfy senior water rights holders.

“We’ve had to cut deeper into the list of junior users more quickly than compared to normal precipitation years,” Gall said.

It is a similar situation in Washington state, which is also seeing below-average flows in nearly half of all rivers and streams. Temperatures have also averaged about 3 degrees above normal statewide in July, making the period between May and June the fourth-warmest on record.

Jeff Marti, drought coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology, said the state is going through a significant precipitation deficit, which is being most felt in the west and southwest portions of the state.

“We have some rivers that have been establishing record low flows for this day of the year throughout the summer,” Marti said.

The Department of Ecology has been curtailing water for some 88 users in the Chehalis River Basin since late May and early June. State officials, however, have not gone as far as to declare a drought emergency.

Drought conditions are creeping east into Idaho as well. About 70 percent of the state is listed as “abnormally dry,” and the remaining 30 percent is in “moderate drought.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for an increased likelihood of more unseasonably warm weather across all three states for the next three months, and likely below-average precipitation in most of Oregon and Washington.

The longer drought lingers, the more it will heighten anxiety over reservoir storage heading into next year, Marti said.

“You could have a vast recovery, or there could be some anxiety if we have a sub-par snowpack year,” he said. “You like to have good carryover. It gives you a little cushion heading into next year.”

Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University, said based on forecasts, the Northwest drought will not be easing up soon, and in fact more areas in eastern Washington may actually start developing more severe conditions.

In many ways, Mote said this year is reminiscent of 2015, another drought year amplified by low snow and spring precipitation. Some coastal streams in Oregon have lower flows this year than they did in 2015, Mote said.

“For anything relying on snowpack, that was a difficult year,” Mote said.

Organic lawsuit against USDA can proceed

A U.S. district judge has ruled a lawsuit against USDA over its withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule can proceed. The rule included new standards for raising, transporting and slaughtering organic animals.

The lawsuit, brought by seven nonprofit organizations led by the Center for Food Safety, seeks to reinstate the rule on the grounds USDA’s action violates the Organic Food Production Act and failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act.

USDA moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing plaintiffs do not have legal standing.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg last week ruled the plaintiffs do have legal standing, but sided with USDA on two other issues.

He dismissed, without leave to amend, the plaintiffs’ claim that USDA did not have the authority to withdraw the rule based on alleged costs to producers.

He also dismissed their claim that withdrawing the rule without involving the National Organic Standards Board exceeded USDA’s statutory authority. He did, however, give plaintiffs leave to amend that claim.

“We are very gratified that the court agrees we can challenge the unlawful withdrawal of these hard-won animal care protections in organic production,” George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety legal director and counsel in the case, said in a press release.

USDA’s motion to dismiss did not address two other claims by the plaintiffs, regarding the agency’s two main rationales for the withdrawal.

Those claims will proceed, Amy Van Saun, a staff attorney with the center, told Capital Press.

Those rationales are that USDA doesn’t have authority to set organic standards that relate to animal welfare beyond the substances used and that there must be significant market failure in order to change the organic standards and justify the associated costs, she said.

The center will challenge the withdrawal based on those rationales, she said.

The lawsuit, which was filed in March, also includes plaintiffs Center for Environmental Health, Cultivate Oregon, International Center for Technology Assessment, National Organic, Coalition, Humane Society of the U.S. and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The Organic Trade Association filed a lawsuit against USDA in September 2017. It originally targeted USDA’s failure to implement the rule finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration. OTA amended its original complaint in February to reflect USDA’s announced intention to withdraw the final rule.

In a statement to Capital Press on Friday, OTA said: “The Organic Trade Association welcomes the decision of the Northern District of California U.S. District Court that recognizes our colleagues’ standing to challenge the USDA’s handling of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final regulation.

“On the issues that were lost in the California case, however, the Organic Trade Association believes our case is different and will be handled on its own merits. We look forward to working together to undo the administration’s refusal to implement the OLPP. “

Conventional livestock and poultry groups have fiercely opposed the rule, citing health threats to animals and the public. They have argued the animal-welfare standards aren’t based on science and are outside the scope of the OFPA, which limits organic to feeding and medication practices.

They have also argued that it would vilify conventional livestock practices, open the door to activists’ lawsuits and create barriers for existing and new organic producers.

Oregon governor, senator pay visit to Organic Valley creamery

McMINNVILLE, Ore. — Sitting face-to-face with organic dairy farmers from around the Willamette Valley, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley pledged their support for organic agriculture, an industry that Merkley called “an exciting opportunity for our food and our economy.”

Brown and Merkley, both Democrats, visited the Organic Valley creamery in McMinnville on Friday, one year to the month after the plant opened with $350,000 in funding from the state’s Strategic Reserve Fund.

The creamery now has 42 full-time employees and brings in 500,000 pounds of organic milk every day to process into butter and powdered milk. Organic Valley is the nation’s largest organic farming cooperative, with more than 2,000 members in 35 states — including 75 organic dairy farms in Oregon and Washington.

One of those members is Sar-Ben Farms in Saint Paul. Steve Pierson, a fourth-generation family farmer, also serves on the Organic Valley board of directors. He talked about the process of going organic, shifting from a confined feeding operation to a grass-based operation, which helped to improve the health of his cows.

“We felt that herd should have been healthier,” Pierson said, and though it was intimidating to change their production model, “We found that working with Mother Nature, instead of against it, was really better for us.”

Pierson’s daughter, 22-year-old Sara, will become the fifth generation, along with her brothers, to work at Sar-Ben Farms. While Sara Pierson said she originally thought she might be interested in a more traditional 9-to-5 job, she ultimately missed the fast-paced work.

“I really love the way I grew up on the farm,” Pierson said. “I don’t think I could have an office job.”

Organic Valley has been a key partner in helping those dairy farms remain in business, cutting $59 million in milk checks for Oregon members in 2017. The McMinnville creamery is the co-op’s only brick-and-mortar facility outside of Wisconsin.

Brown said she was pleased to see the creamery has created new jobs in the community, and will be talking with Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor on programs to support further growth in organic farming.

Getting into the organic business is no easy task. For dairy farmers, cows can only eat organic feed, cannot be given any additional hormones or antibiotics, and must have at least 120 days to graze on open pasture. For farmers growing their own feed, it takes three years without spraying chemicals before the land can be certified organic.

At the end of the day, Pierson said organic farmers must maintain consumer trust and credibility, which is why they are willing to work with lawmakers on new guidelines and regulations.

“It’s all about integrity, really,” he said. “We need to meet that (customer) expectation.”

Adam Warthesen, who heads government relations for Organic Valley, said the co-op feels “pretty good” about where organics stand in the 2018 Farm Bill, which is scheduled to go to conference committee Sept. 5.

Merkley, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, pointed to several provisions in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill intended to invest in organics — such as creating permanent mandatory funding for organic research, providing mandatory funding for cost-share programs to help farmers transition to organic practices, and strengthening enforcement tools under the USDA National Organic Program to protect against fraudulent imports.

Last year, the USDA Office of Inspector General issued an audit claiming that the agency could not provide reasonable assurance that the National Organic Program required documents at U.S. ports to verify that labeled organic products, in fact, came from organic sources.

Chris Schreiner, executive director of Oregon Tilth, a nonprofit organization accredited to certify organic farms, said that report served as a call to action.

“The organic label rests on consumer credibility and trust,” Schreiner said. “It’s really our job as certifiers to make sure that integrity is there.”

Harvester a boost for broccoli

Ron Pearmine describes himself as a “broccoli ambassador” for the Willamette Valley.

This year, Pearmine is growing 175 acres of broccoli at his family’s farm in Gervais, Ore. But the crop, while desirable, has declined significantly in the area due to labor shortages and rising production costs.

Broccoli is harvested today almost exclusively by hand, with crews of about 20 people going over fields two or three times to maximize yields. Without enough workers, local farmers are growing just half as much broccoli as they were six years ago, according to NORPAC Foods, a farmers’ cooperative and food processor based in Salem.

Ever the engineer — he has a bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering — Pearmine began tinkering with machinery to come up with a solution. He created a mechanical harvester out of a 1976 Chisholm-Ryder bean picker that he believes could promote increased acreage, while replacing hand crews entirely.

“I’m excited about it,” Pearmine said. “It does create a new opportunity for broccoli here in the valley.”

Pearmine’s goal is to machine-harvest 80 acres of broccoli at his farm this season. Other growers have also shown interest, allowing Pearmine to harvest several smaller plots in their own fields.

On Aug. 2, Pearmine mounted the harvester and began a trial run at Obersinner Farms on Howell Prairie between Salem and Silverton. It took 20 minutes to make one pass down a quarter-acre row, filling four large wooden crates with broccoli bound for NORPAC.

“It works. It’s effective,” Pearmine said. “We could pick our broccoli mechanically if we choose to. It’s a viable option.”

‘The big fail’

Pearmine is not the first to conceive of a mechanical broccoli harvester — though nothing has been developed so far commercially.

Pearmine was inspired to come up with his own design after a trip to Case Equipment Manufacturing in North Dakota, where he saw robots welding parts for machinery. If robots can weld, then he figured they can also pick broccoli.

The first attempt came in 2013, or what Pearmine calls “the big fail.” Nothing about that system worked right, he said, and the setback lingered for several years before he went back to the drawing board.

“I have an engineering brain, I guess you could say,” Pearmine said with a chuckle.

By sheer innovation — or insanity, as Pearmine jokes — he assembled a working prototype last year by rigging the old bean picker with three rows of spinning blades in front, similar to a corn harvester. Once cut, the broccoli is carried up a conveyor belt over a series of metal rollers that pinch off the leaves, and dropped into bins on a flat trailer.

Pearmine gave a presentation on the harvester at a NORPAC grower meeting in December 2017, where he caught the attention of fellow growers like Tom Fessler, of Fessler Farms in Woodburn, who agreed to participate in field trials.

“There’s been talk we need to move in that direction,” Fessler said. “Ron took the bull by the horns, and developed a machine.”

Crop uniformity

From a technical standpoint, Fessler said the harvester works well. The problem: It cuts everything all at once, though broccoli often does not mature at the same rate.

That means potentially sacrificing yield with machine harvesting, for the sake of efficiency.

“You’re going to have some (plants) that are slightly over-mature, some that are just right and quite a few that are on the small side, based on our experience right now,” Fessler said.

Pearmine acknowledges that, unless broccoli fields are uniform in maturity, the harvester has its drawbacks.

“That’s part of the reason why I want to get it out, so guys can have that experience,” Pearmine said. “How much do you want to give up on yield? If you don’t want to give up anything, you’ll continue picking by hand.”

Pearmine is nonetheless bullish that mechanical harvesting will eventually prove to be a boon for the industry, reversing the trend of lost acreage brought on by mounting labor shortages.

Labor costs

Randy Lyons, vice president of agriculture services for NORPAC, said fewer workers combined with Oregon’s rising minimum wage have driven the decline in broccoli production from 2,000 acres in 2012 to just 1,000 acres this year.

To make up the difference, Lyons said the co-op is buying twice as much broccoli from Mexico to process into its line of soups and frozen vegetables. NORPAC is excited about the potential of Pearmine’s harvester, Lyons added, though crop quality will be the ultimate test.

“We’re working with him real closely to make sure what he’s bringing into the plant, we can make the best use of,” Lyons said. “It has to be as good as what’s in the marketplace, or better.”

In addition to NORPAC, Pearmine said he has received support from Wilco and Marion Ag Services. After harvest, he intends to compare machine-harvested yields to those of hand crews, and continue working with partners to fine-tune the system.

“People are interested. They’re supportive, and they’re excited,” Pearmine said. “It creates a new future, I think, for NORPAC and broccoli.”

OSU field day highlights mechanical cultivation tools

Until recently, managing weeds at Gathering Together Farm meant using cultivation technology circa the 1950s.

John Yeo, cultivation manager and agronomist at the 65-acre certified organic farm in Philomath, Ore., estimates they were spending $3,000 per month on labor just to pull weeds. In that sense, he said investing in new mechanical equipment was a no-brainer.

The farm purchased an in-row weeder earlier this summer from Kult-Kress Cultivation Solutions, which Yeo was on hand to demonstrate Thursday during the first mechanical cultivation field day at Oregon State University.

About 100 people attended the daylong event, hosted by the OSU Small Farms Program. The lineup included speakers, vendors and demonstrations at the university’s vegetable research farm in Corvallis.

Yeo said he was excited to see the knowledge of cultivation being resurrected, and passed along to the next generation of farmers.

“That’s the focus of this workshop,” he said.

Gathering Together Farm grows more than 300 varieties of 50 different vegetable crops. But as an organic operation, Yeo said they cannot use herbicides to treat weeds, meaning they must rely on mechanical tools.

Eliminating weeds between rows of crops is the “holy grail” of mechanical cultivation, Yeo said, and already the Kult-Kress weeder is paying dividends. The equipment hooks onto his tractor, raking the soil to disrupt weeds without harming the vegetable seedlings.

The equipment cost about $1,000 per row, Yeo said, but will quickly pay for itself in labor savings.

“It’s not going to eliminate it, but it will dramatically reduce the amount,” he said.

Clare Sullivan, a small farms extension agent for OSU based in Redmond, helped to organize the field day with assistance from a two-year Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant through the USDA.

Mechanical cultivation has always been a component of integrated weed management, Sullivan said, but with a decrease in labor and rising production costs, it is becoming more important for small and organic farmers to become more efficient.

Sullivan said she hoped growers would find inspiration at the field day by seeing firsthand how new equipment works, and how they can integrate the tools on their farms.

“I’m really hoping they have some ‘aha!’ moments, seeing how some of these tools work in the field,” she said.

Joe Sutton, chief operating officer of Sutton Ag Enterprises, an equipment dealer and manufacturer based in Salinas, Calif., said Europe is well ahead of the U.S. in accelerating mechanical restoration equipment.

“Their labor problems and cost of labor is much more extensive than it is here,” Sutton said, adding that it costs as much as $45 per hour to hand-weed in some parts of Switzerland. “That’s why they’re so much more advanced there.”

Sutton Ag Enterprises builds 30 percent of the equipment it sells in-house, while also serving as the sole U.S. distributor for 15 European coompanies, such as Steketee finger weeders out of the Netherlands.

“It all comes down to labor and saving time,” Sutton said. “If you can mechanically treat and save the time, it’s always going to be a plus.”

Dry Farming Project plans Astoria field day

The Dry Farming Collaborative is hosting a field day Aug. 27 at 46 North Farm in Astoria.

Come to learn about dry farming, see crops (tomatoes, squash, melon, zucchini, dry beans, corn) grown with little or no supplemental irrigation in the field. The farm is located at 89578 Highway 202, Astoria, Ore.

The idea of reducing or even eliminating irrigation continues to draw interest from farmers and gardeners across the country and even internationally.The program particularly attracts small farmers and new farmers, who are drawn to growing food but run up against one of agriculture’s basic problems — the lack of water rights.

The event is free and drop-in style from 5-7 p.m. Registration is  required to assist in preparation and parking is limited on some sites.



OSU offers pasture, forage management class

Join local OSU Extension agents Aug. 28 for a free interactive class on pasture and forage management.

Topics include: Use of pasture sticks to measure forages, electric fencing techniques, windbreaks for water conservation, and a pasture walk where pasture management will be the focus and audience questions answered. Free pasture sticks will be available.

The event will be conducted from  5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Ron Angle Ranch, 5845 SW King Lane, Culver, Ore. The class is free, but participants are asked to RSVP  by calling 541-447-6228 or email kim.herber@oregonstate.edu.

USDA: Small farms bear greater food safety costs

Complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act will consume a much larger chunk of small farmers’ revenues compared with their larger counterparts, according to USDA.

Fresh produce growers with annual sales above roughly $3.5 million can expect to devote less than a third of 1 percent of revenues on complying with the federal statute, which was enacted in 2011, according to a recent USDA study.

Meanwhile, those with less than $500,000 in annual sales will likely spend about 6-7 percent of their revenues to meet FSMA requirements, such as water testing, worker training and recordkeeping, the study found.

The added expense may prompt some smaller farmers to stop growing fresh produce crops affected by FSMA, or convince them to sell off their operations altogether, said John Bovay, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut.

“Clearly, farms aren’t operating on huge profit margins, especially small farms,” Bovay said. “Consolidation is definitely an option.”

When comparing farms by size, the cost of complying with FSMA increases sharply as farms attain revenues of about $500,000, after which the expense mounts more slowly and then levels off once revenues hit about $3.5 million, the study said.

In effect, the total costs of training workers or testing water are relatively fixed, but bigger farms can spread those expense across a larger revenue base, Bovay said.

“Compliance cost increases with revenue, but at a decreasing rate,” he said.

When the rules associated with FSMA are fully implemented in 2022, the actual cost for large farms may actually be less than the 0.3 percent estimated by the study.

That’s because large growers have already been required by major retailers to adopt food safety practices that will be mandated by FSMA, Bovay said. “It’s going to accentuate the advantage the big guys have, because the big guys are already complying.”

Because following FSMA’s mandates will probably cause a small reduction in the supply of fruits and vegetables, the associated increase in prices will help mitigate costs for the farming industry as a whole, he said.

In general, though, the regulations will make it tougher for small farms to remain competitive while any improvement in food safety will likely take years to recognize, he said.

“Our food safety system is quite good in the U.S. and the risks are quite low,” Bovay said. “It’s not clear they will lead to benefits that exceed costs.”

Since some fruits and vegetables are more likely to be grown by smaller farmers, FSMA costs will be steeper for those crops and the areas where they’re commonly grown, the study said.

For example, the cost of compliance will fall below one percent of revenues for growers of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and spinach.

For producers of such Northwest staples as cherries and pears, however, FSMA requirements will cost nearly 3 percent of revenues on average.

Expenses as a share of revenues also range by state: 1.32 percent for California, 1.38 percent for Washington, 1.67 percent for Idaho and 2.67 percent for Oregon.

It must be remembered that FSMA is only one factor that’s increasing the cost of doing business for farmers, said Mike Doke, executive director of the Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers nonprofit, which represents cherry, apple and pear producers in the region.

“Costs are coming at growers from every angle — from labor to regulation — and this only adds to that,” he said. “They’ve got fixed costs going up and no way to make sure their revenue will go up to match it.”

Oregon and Washington produce about 88 percent of the fresh pears grown in the U.S., often in historical orchards that aren’t easily replaced with other crops, said Kathy Stephenson, director of marketing communications for the Pear Bureau Northwest marketing organization.

“Our average pear grower has 50 acres, so not a lot,” she said.

The true costs of FSMA are uncertain right now because key provisions — such as water testing — are still under consideration, said Kate Woods, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the growers, packers and shippers of apples, pears and cherries.

Investing in food-grade packing equipment that’s easily sanitized may end up being more expensive than accounted for in USDA’s study, though many costs associated with FSMA are already being shouldered by farmers, she said.

“Most of our industry has been active and engaged in food safety, so they’re not starting at that zero point,” Woods said.

Meat School offered for small-scale producers

A five-class series on producing and marketing cattle, sheep and goats for meat will begin Thursday, Aug. 30, in Central Point, Ore.
Called Meat School, the classes will cover a broad array of topics on livestock. Instructors will include renowned authors, successful producers, Oregon State University Extension livestock and grazing specialists, faculty from other universities and speakers from the American Grassfed Association and the Niche Meat Processors Association Network.

Classes will take place Aug. 30, Sept. 4, Sept. 6, Sept. 11 and Sept. 18. All will be 5:30-9 p.m. in the OSU Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center, Auditorium, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point, Ore.
All five classes cost $175 or students can select individual classes for $40 each. There is a discount for second registrants from the same farm. Details are available at https://extension.oregonstate. edu/sorec/events/grass- finished-meat-school-class-1- 5-part-series

Sisters nurture legacy at family orchard

FILER, Idaho — Nestled alongside the Snake River just west of Twin Falls, Kelley’s Canyon Orchard has been a draw for generations of fruit lovers.

The orchard is in its 110th fruit-crop season, and locals with bushel baskets knew their way to the U-pick rows of peach trees on Sunday afternoon. Others, from as far away as Boise, chose freshly picked produce from the farm stand welcoming visitors to the orchard.

The operation has a rich history from its beginnings in 1906 to its current, fourth-generation owners — sisters Robin and Gretchen. Although married, the women still go by the family name, Robin Kelley Rausch said.

While the operation has had small blips of large distribution, its focus has always been direct sales to customers, she said.

It’s a business model that harkens back to her great grandfather, John Steele Gourley, who planted the first fruit trees at the orchard in 1906. His father, a preacher, had come to the Magic Valley from Pennsylvania to help with the development of the First Presbyterian Church of Twin Falls.

Gourley recognized the climate in the Snake River Canyon was ideal for cultivating stone fruit and obtained land and water rights there under the Carey Act. He established his orchard on 50 acres along the banks of the Snake and planted melons between the trees to make a little money while the trees were maturing.

For years, he would haul his produce to Twin Falls by horse and wagon, selling to houses up and down neighborhood alleys, Kelley said.

Love for the orchard was carried down to his daughter, Mary Anne Gourley Kelley, and grandson, Richard Kelley — father of Robin and Gretchen.

The business ran under the Gourley name until Richard took over in the late 1970s and expanded the operation. After Richard’s death in 2014, Robin and Gretchen took the reins.

“Some of the things I love the best are the multiple-generation experiences. It’s a rite of passage,” she said, not just for her own family, which is bringing in the fifth generation to the orchard, but also for the customers who have been coming to the orchard for generations. People who brought their children to the orchard are now bringing their grandchildren.

It’s a connection of food and family. Kelley’s is part of other families’ traditions, she said.

“It’s always been a place for people to come and enjoy. We really pride ourselves on a sense of place,” she said.

But it isn’t an easy business. The orchard lost 85 percent of its cherry crop this year due to a late freeze this spring. The freeze and a hail storm took half of the peaches and plums and decimated the nectarines. Apple production is also down due to a bad bud set last fall.

“The orchard business is maybe a four-month revenue stream, maybe, if everything goes well,” she said.

But she and her sister, who both also have careers outside the orchard business, are dedicated to making the orchard thrive. They are putting all the income from the orchard back into the business, and they’ve opened their grandmother’s house on the property as an Airbnb destination to bring in more revenue and provide visitors with a unique experience, she said.

“There is a love for the place and the legacy of tradition and a responsibility to family,” she said.

The orchard is a shared story between the family and customers, old and new, she said.

“The people at the stand might love our peaches, but they’re more buying our story. It’s an experience — and we do grow really good fruit,” she said.

“We work really hard and value the people who work for and with us. And we really appreciate the community support. We cannot thrive or survive without community support,” she said.