I’m a proud mom of a three year old son and an infant daughter. I’m also a proud third-generation member and owner of my family’s 500-acre fruit and vegetable farm, Hollabaugh Bros., Inc., located in upper Adams county in south-central Pennsylvania. The sheer nature of being a part of a family business intermingles my two worlds on an ongoing basis. But in the fall, my two pride and joy worlds really collide. I try my hardest to keep my head above water with the mountains of work at the farm while making time for every possible precious moment I can spend with my son, as the rapidity with which he is growing, learning, and changing hasn’t yet ceased to amaze me.
Interestingly, and not altogether surprisingly, these worlds often collide by way of apples. We go for a walk in the orchard, picking apples off the tree left behind by our pickers. We cook applesauce, peeling, chopping, and stirring the apples to make the perfect blend. We share a fresh-sliced apple at the dinner table. If living on an apple farm weren’t enough reason to cause these worlds to collide, the nature of the industry in this area certainly would be.
Pennsylvania, and specifically the south-mountain region of the state, is the 4th largest apple producer in the United States. Agriculture is one of the two largest industries in Adams County, where our farm is located, along with tourism.
In the fall, it’s hard to drive through our neck of the woods without seeing the apple industry at work: from apples being harvested off of trees by quick-moving hands, tractors moving bins in and out of the orchards, trucks transporting apples from field to factory, or tractor trailers hitting the highways, filled to the brim with fresh or processed apples to fill grocery store shelves.
In the fast-paced world in which we all live, it’s become far too easy to take it all for granted. To assume that the apples will always just magically appear on the grocery store shelves, or that the applesauce will just cook and package itself.
But to our great fortune, another collision has helped us all to take a step back to appreciate our dynamic industry. It’s called Agri-tourism.
A few short generations ago, it seemed that everyone was connected to a farm in some not-too-distant way. Today, farm and ranch families comprise just 2 percent of the US population. And we see evidence of that disconnect in our farm market every day. Brussels sprouts harvested on the stalk are purchased not for the nutritional value, but for the sheer novelty of how they’re grown.
Agri-tourism allows us to reconnect the farm to the consumer. We do it in a number of ways on our farm: farm tours, pick-your-own fruits, walking tours, CSA memberships, children’s events, and festivals. And others are doing it, too. The Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail offers dozens of farm markets, wineries, and breweries in the south-mountain region that folks can visit to experience a taste of agriculture. A local corn maze provides on-farm entertainment not unlike what you’d get at an amusement park, except with grass and corn instead of paved walkways and roller-coasters.
And so, instead of sitting at my desk until dark, doing the work that never seems to stop piling up, I leave the office. I hold my son’s hand (I know all too well that in not too many years, it won’t be cool to hold my hand anymore), and we head out for a walk in the orchard, crunching on apples and marveling at the beauty of the season together. I highly recommend you do the same.
Photos courtesy of the Adams County Fruit Growers Association.
Note: Mark your calendar for the 60th Annual Apple Blossom Festival May 2-3 in Adams County, PA. The festival is located at the South Mountain Fairgrounds in the heart of Apple Country, USA, and is hosted by the Adams County Fruit Growers Association. For more information, visit http://www.appleblossomfestival.info