You might recall us featuring Three Springs Fruit Farm on February 10. We reached out to Three Springs Fruit Farm to see if they would be up for an interview. Ben Wenk, owner and operator, was kind enough to oblige. Thank you, Ben, for the interview.
1. Where is your farm located? What year was the farm started?
Our family moved to Northern Adams County PA in 1818 from Switzerland. Our ancestors established a farm and blacksmith’s shop there in a town now known to locals as Wenksville. We go in depth into our farm history on our website.
2. What is your relationship to the farm? Owner?
I am a seventh generation farm owner/operator.
3. What all do you grow?
Our farm is large and diversified. Of our 450 acres, approximately half of the land is devoted to apple production. Our peach acreage is nearing 40 acres, as is our cherry acreage. The remaining land is devoted to a wide range of commodities: pears, apricots, plums, pluots, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, specialty vegetables, and strawberries. More recently, we’ve installed plantings of antioxidant rich fruits such as currants, gooseberries, and even a few aroniaberries. Our main crops – apples, peaches, pears, and cherries are all third party certified by the Food Alliance.
4. Do you have plans on growing other fruit than you already grow?
Whatever our customers want – if it can be grown in our area, we’ll have a go at it. Things we’ve kicked around and considered for the future would include tree nuts, paw paws, persimmons, figs – the really fun, rare stuff.
5. Are you a PYO (Pick Your Own) Farm?
6. Can people visit your farm? What are the visiting hours of your fruit farm? What time of year or times of year would you suggest visiting?
We’ve been fortunate to host a few tours at our farm but we don’t have farm visits penciled into our plans as something we plan to do at designated times. The best idea is to reach out to us if you want to visit and we could see what might work for us. We’re easily accessible through our homepage, Facebook, and Twitter.
7. Do you have a favorite fruit that you harvest? What is it and why?
For me, it’s peaches. Peaches are one of those things that, when done right, are really a perfect fruit. We spend months waiting for them to ripen and it takes us months to get past not having them – it’s the same every season. The bold flavor of a tree-ripened peach – the juiciness, sweet and tart – it’s a beautiful thing. You have to lean over to keep the drippings off your shirt. Peaches are my favorite. However, I should mention that the fruit that we grow that I personally eat more than any other is apricots. I’m an apricot fiend and I get really defensive about how many apricots make it back to my house when they’re ripe.
8. How do you determine what varieties of apples that you’ll grow? I noticed that you have quite a few that you grow listed on your website.
And we’re adding new apple varieties all the time! Next to tomatoes, it’s hard to think of another fruit that varies so greatly by variety in color, flavor, texture, qualities – everything. Our variety selection is determined mostly by our customers. I talk to them constantly – what did they like? What did they not? Suitability to our area and susceptibility to disease factors in. We also have to be mindful of what part of our farm might be best suited to a particular variety. But first and foremost, it’s what our customers want to eat. Now, if I could see ten years into the future on what they’ll want to eat then, it would be easier, but we make it work as best as we can. Still, the bottom line with apples is everyone has a favorite variety. You can’t say the same about other fruits. I want to have everyone’s favorite variety.
9. What would you say is the hardest fruit to grow? How come? Is it because of the climate in PA or just because of the nature of the fruit itself?
In our area, European pears are the most difficult to grow. By and large, most of the growers in our area have stopped altogether. Here in Pennsylvania, we have different pests of pears that large growing areas in California, Washington, and Oregon don’t have to combat. The first of these is a small, winged insect called Pear Pyslla that makes sooty black damage on the outside of the fruit. These pear trees are also very susceptible to a nasty bacterial disease called Fireblight which, as the name suggests, has been known to spread quickly and leave black, dead plant tissue in its wake. Both of these two nuisances make pear production in our area very difficult.
10. What are the products that you make from the fruit that you grow? I see you have butters, sauces, Jams, Jellies and pies. Anything new for 2011?
We’re very lucky to count the folks at Kime’s Cider Mill among our friends. They are a local, family-owned processor right here in the nearest town to us who makes custom value-added products from our fruit. Every year, we use some of our excess fruit to produce our own label of apple butter in three different recipes, pear butter, apple sauce, dried apple schantioxidant-fruits.comtz, apple juice, canned peaches, and apple cider. We’re also excited to debut our own label of Tart Cherry Juice in early summer which, as you guys know, are chock full of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and other powerful antioxidants.