Halloween harvest: The business of fall

BERLIN HEIGHTS The months of August, September and October are extremely busy for Bill Gammie. "You go nuts," said Gam
Janet
May 24, 2010

BERLIN HEIGHTS

The months of August, September and October are extremely busy for Bill Gammie.

"You go nuts," said Gammie about running his family business.

Gammie is the owner of Quarry Hill Winery and Orchards, 8403 Mason Road, in Berlin Heights, a quaint fruit farm that operates year-round and produces 30 acres of peaches and nectarines, 30 acres of pears, 3 acres of cherries and 90 acres of apples. In addition to that, Gammie also grows pumpkins. He has almost 2 acres dedicated to the fall crop. About 20 people are employed at the farm.

Across the region, fruit farms are preparing for the fall business of primarily apples and pumpkins. Pricing for the produce varies farm to farm from $15 to $27 a bushel. Pumpkins may be purchased for less than 40 cents a pound at most local farms.

But getting to this point wasn't a completely smooth ride for many of area farmers.

"Like what my uncle says, 'What can't be cured must be endured,'" Gammie said.

The biggest issue, he said, is always the weather.

"And it always will be," Gammie said.

Because of a spring freeze, two months of dry weather and then a month of rainy weather, the crops have not been as plentiful.

"The quantity is a lot less, but the quality is not bad," Gammie said. "There are parts of Ohio that don't even have apples."

But that's not stopping customers from stopping by to stock up on fall crops.

Sharon Deem, of Vermilion, has been a customer at Quarry Hill orchards for about 25 years.

"The fall is just a beautiful time to go," said Deem, adding that she stops by the orchard a couple of times every month. "I like stopping there to sample the wine."

Two years ago, Quarry Hill added a winery to its operations.

Mac McLelland, co-owner of the winery, said it was the perfect collaboration.

"It seemed to go hand in hand," McLelland said.

The winery is located inside the Quarry Hill store and bottles range from $8.99 to $17.99 a bottle. A 10 percent discount is given to customers who purchase a case of wine.

The two most popular wines at the winery are the fruit wines -- apple and peach.

"With the abundance of fruit at the orchard, I asked myself, 'What else can you do?'" he said.

Apples and peaches are the farm's most popular products and there are more than a dozen different varieties of apples for people to choose from.

Apples are Deem's big purchase at Quarry Hill, where she buys most of her fruit.

"I like them all. I like all apples," she said.

Other fruit farms are also experiencing the fall rush.

Burnham Orchards, 8019 Ohio 113, in Berlin Heights produces peaches, blackberries, apples and pumpkins on its 1,000 acre farm. About 200 of those acres are dedicated to apples.

During the summer, peaches are the big seller, but come fall, apples and pumpkins are the big hit. The farm also offers a fall harvest festival complete with a corn maze, hayride and pick-your-own apples and pumpkins.

Eshleman Fruit Farm, 753 E. Maple St., Clyde, has about 10 different varieties of apples available for picking. Last week was a busy time for the farm. Golden Delicious apples were ripe and ready to be picked. Betty Eshleman, co-owner of the farm, said there is a two-week window to pick apples before they fall off the tree. Next week Fuji apples will be ripe for picking.

Pick-your-own apples is an option that will be available until Nov. 1. The farm will continue to stay open all winter.

Eshleman said she has noticed more consumers purchasing local fruits.

"They like to know where (the fruits) come from," she said. "It's a lot cheaper than buying it already picked."

Eshleman's Fruit Farm also offers school tours during the fall. The students are amazed when they see how a farm operates, she said.

"They see what the farm does year-round," Eshleman said. "It's good for the kids."

The students learn what the farm does to grow trees and produce fruit. They tour the packing house and cold storage, which can hold up to 20,000 bushels of apples. The four storage rooms keep apples into the spring of next year.

The fruit farm has 200 acres of fruit -- 150 dedicated to apples.

The Eshlemans also grow cherries and peaches, which are available in the summer. Apples are ready to be picked by August.

The farm is currently staffed with about 20 people to keep the operations running smooth.

"We're ready for every challenge that comes up," Eshleman said.