This story really begins more than five years ago with the cultivation of a seedling apple tree, looking for a really good apple. We found one. It’s called the ‘Spencerville Red.’ So named because the original tree grew in Spencerville, MD. and the fruit ripens to a very red apple. It also happens to have an excellent tart flavor, is very hard, crisp and keeps well. It was so good we patented it and formed a corporation to produce and market it. (“We” consists of myself and the family where this original tree was grown.) Of course, a corporation can’t grow much of anything, it takes growers to do that. In fact we feel that this apple may be so good that there’s going to be a demand for it greater than the quantity that I can grow on my farm.
So, since 13,000 trees will be ready for planting next Spring I have been off in search of some additional growers to help produce the ‘Spencerville Red.’ My first duty on my two day trip/vacation (anything away from the farm more than 18 hours counts as a vacation) was actually to make sure our mowers were running before I left — which they were — so my significant other and I took off on my motorcycle and headed for Catoctin Mt. Orchards in Thurmont, MD. We had given them a ‘Spencerville Red’ tree to plant earlier in the Spring and wanted to check on its progress. We were pleased to hear it was alive, well, and bearing one or two apples. The rest of their farm and orchards looked great. The trees were healthy and, with the exceptions of the apricots, had a full crop. (The apricots were in full bloom when the temperature dropped to 22¼ F.) Their peaches, like ours, already seemed to be sizing up, larger than normal for the time of year. While we were there they were working on several projects, thinning peaches, getting the irrigation ready and chasing the birds out of the cherries.
Our next stop was the farm of Bill Gardenhour in Smithsburg, MD. He, like all the growers we visited, had been recommended for his ability to grow high quality fresh fruit. Mr. Gardenhour was out tending his pick-your-own strawberry field. His chosen variety was ‘Earliglow’ — sweet, dark red, good sized berries. Next to the strawberry field were his black and red raspberries. He and I both had always heard that you weren’t supposed to plant red and black raspberries right next to each other, but the nursery where he had bought the plants had told him it was O.K. to do so, so he did. I’m going to check back and see what happens. Surrounding us were his fruit tree plantings, both young and older trees. His trees had also set a good crop, and as it seemed everyone has a good crop, it led us to laugh at what the prices were going to be this Summer. One of his concerns about our apple was its susceptibility to fire blight. (Fire blight is caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora and will kill blossoms, vegetative shoots, limbs and sometimes whole trees. Symptoms on new growth will appear with the leaves wilting and turning brown to black as if the tree had been burnt. On older growth the returning infection will cause the leaves to turn yellow with the branch dying. For control at this time of year the best you can do is cut out and remove the infected limbs and control sucking insects such as aphids which can spread the bacterium.) The ‘Spencerville Red’ seems to be resistant to fireblight. I also talked to other growers in the Smithsburg area, one of which had his orchard at a considerably higher elevation than Mr. Gardenhour. Apparently elevation can effect fireblight, as his orchard had not been infected as others in the area had. (Fire blight is dependent upon temperature, especially during bloom.)
We traveled to Winchester, VA and spoke to Stanley Bauserman. We found him among his cherry trees trying to scare away the birds. The trees were hung with not only cherries, but also foil streamers, balloons and noise emitters that were constantly going — with limited success.
I talked to other growers as well and hopefully found some growers for our ‘Spencerville Red.’ I found every one out in their orchards working on that 90¼ day, facing the same problems that every grower does, including the home gardener. It reinforced the knowledge that the solutions come with hard work.
The ride we took over those not so traveled roads covered some beautiful country, and we did manage to spend a few hours at Deep Creek Lake. Then, I came home to two broken mowers.