|By TIM THORNBERRY
VERSAILLES, Ky. — Harvest time generally conjures up thoughts of autumn and colored leaves, but the summer harvest is in full swing bringing with it colors and flavors all its own, with a direct line to consumers by way of the hundreds of farmers’ markets and orchards scattered across the state.
Backyard gardeners have known for years that the warm days of summer bring forth dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables. Now, more and more consumers are discovering the local supermarket isn’t the only place to find their favorites.
U-pick orchards and markets are bursting with homegrown commodities like blueberries, raspberries, sweet corn, peaches and apples, not to mention strawberries and asparagus, which have already seen their peaks.
Terry Boyd, owner-operator of Boyd’s Orchard is a fifth generation producer and has seen the large-scale side of fruit production as well as the smaller local market operation and said the direct market approach lends itself to a better product.
“I had 900 acres of apples and peaches in southern Illinois but the profit margins just weren’t there through the 90’s and now I’d say one-third of producers like that have gone to direct marketing like this,” he said.
“When sending something across the country, you have to grow a product you can ship. Anything that has to travel 2000 miles has a tough life. You have to pick it a little early so it will be firm enough to make the trip. Here we can wait and that last 24 to 48 hours makes a huge difference and we hear that everyday about how much sweeter and juicier our products are.”
Boyd likens his 65 acres to a pie with each piece representing a different aspect of the business.
There is a playground area for the children complete with a giant slide and hay bales, a place for campfires, a shop containing crafts, an eating area and of course, homegrown fruits and vegetables and rows and rows of produce including 31 varieties of apples and 20 varieties of peaches plus pumpkins, squashes and gourds in the fall.
Lauren Jacobs is a regular customer of Boyd’s and sees her visits as a way for her son to learn something about agriculture.
“My dad grew up on a farm and I have a 4-year old and I love that he can come out and understand where all these things come from,” she said.
As consumers turn more and more to local markets, operations like Boyd’s Orchard become not only a place to buy food, but a place to bring the family even when it’s off the beaten path.
“We didn’t accidentally end up in this location. There is something like 700,000 people that are within a 30-minute drive of here. You don’t have to be on an interstate, you will never do well on the interstate,” said Boyd.
“There are three different ways to locate; one is on a busy highway getting all the drive-by business. We are more rural than that but only five minutes from those busy roads and then you have destinations, those that are away from everything, but do a tremendous amount of business because they are a destination-farm. We’re a compromise kind of in the middle.”
This farm news was published in the July 5, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.