Peaches? Nectarines? By now everyone's familiar with Hunter Orchards, and we know lots of you were looking for them this week. Read on to find out what's up with Hunter Orchards now! Because the booth has always been so busy, we conducted this farmer interview via phone. In true farmer fashion, Nicole took questions while sitting on the back of a tractor.
Previously owned by John Tannaci and Kirsten Olsen (this year's market manager), Nicole and David found their way there from Philadelphia three years ago. Many years prior, David had taken a road trip through the area and fell in love with Mount Shasta. When the couple wanted to relocate back to the west coast, the original plan was to find some land, build on it and start a farm. They called a real estate agent, and Hunter Orchards had just been listed. The rest is his, and her, story.
Hunter Orchards' main crops are peaches, nectarines, prune plums, apricots, Anjou pears, apples, and the pumpkin patch, a tradition that thankfully they've chosen to carry on. "We love all the people, especially the schoolchildren, that come out every year. It gives us the opportunity to help educate people about where their food comes from and maybe inspire them to grow some of their own!" Nicole and David also have a large covered hoop house in which they grow spring veggies for the pre-market season. This allows them to grow crops earlier in the season in a climate like ours.
And there are the jams: Kirsten and John first started this with four flavors, and Nicole and David have expanded this to four more, with an eventual plan for more products.
"Part of this is that we love being able to get people a little bit of the taste of what we grow all year 'round," says Nicole, "and the other side of that is that it's a way for farmers to find a way to survive financially and preserve the food we grow. The reality of farming is that not all the produce that you grow looks perfect and beautiful and you need to find another outlet for it other than just turning it back into the land - while it's a great way to add biomass to the soil, it's also great to find ways for people to eat it!"
We know many people were looking for Hunter Orchards this past week at the market, and Nicole wanted to talk about why their time at this year's market has come to a close. This past April, a late ice and snow storm covered every single branch and bud, and by that point, all the trees had blossomed. Hunter lost 90% of its peach and nectarine crop this year because of it.
"I really appreciate that you are focusing on this issue so the community can know what it means to have fresh, local produce - you’re dealing with the seasonality of things and all that comes along with it. It’s on us to educate the public about what that means and why, when you go to a grocery store and you try to buy a peach in the off-season, they don’t taste as good."
She also adds, "Leaving the market this early is definitely strange."
Nicole and David give thanks for how welcoming and supportive the community has been since they took over Hunter Orchards, and are looking forward to all the visitors during this year's pumpkin patch. The Patch opens October 1st, and is open every day in October from 10am to 6pm.
See you there!
The market continues this year through October 16th, and although we're so sad to see Hunter Orchards go so soon, all the rest of our wonderful farmers are still out there representing.
We'll see you Monday. Fall produce is making its way into the booths along with this cooler weather!