Orchards

"Northern Spies for Your Pies"
Nothing marks the passing of the seasons like fruit trees. The cheerful burst of blossoms in spring. The plump fruits reddening in the summer. Autumn brings the first bite into a newly harvested apple. A sip from a hot mug of cider. Or a pear tart warm from the oven. 

Heirloom Orchards

We are bringing the old apple and pear orchards back into production. There are about 150 trees total. They are a mix of heirloom varieties with Northern Spy and Rome apples and Bosc and Bartlett European pears. You can’t beat these types for baking, sauces and cider-making. We think they are delicious for eating, too!

Orchards for Six Generations

Fruit trees were first planted on the farm in the 1870s by Hiram and his son Silas Wright McCollum. When he took over the business, S. Wright expanded the orchards a hundred-fold and had “some of the largest, finest cultivated and carefully pruned orchards in the State,” according to the head of the New York Agricultural Society in 1892. During its heyday in the 1950s, the farm grew over 10,000 fruit trees. These included apples, pears, plums and cherries. Family records include letters from both President Grover Cleveland and Assistant Secretary to the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt thanking Silas W. for bushels of apples and pears sent to the troops. Our name, McCollum Orchards, was first used by Rich's grandmother, Josie, and honors the farm's past.
Letter from President Grover Cleveland to Silas Wright McCollum
Neighbors have told us their fond childhood memories of playing in the plum orchards. As far as we can tell, the last harvest was in 1994. When we moved in, the trees were so tall and overgrown that you could not touch the bottom branches while standing on your tiptoes.

How We Grow

We are attempting to restore the orchards using holistic methods, as described in the book The Holistic Orchard. It is a 3-4 year process. Pruning and clearing the surrounding overgrowth allows more sunlight and wind movement through the branches. Some trees were removed altogether. We do not spray chemicals on the orchards. We intend to improve the soil and drainage for better health. Research on  beneficial cover crops in orchards, like comfrey, can improve organic agricultural practices for orchard health. Also, tree diseases overwinter in dropped fruit and leaves. Before winter, we make sure that every dropped piece of fruit is collected off the ground. 

Fruit for the Future

Eventually, we plan to plant an orchard of dwarf varieties of tree fruits for u-pick. To do this, we are preparing the sites properly.



1 comment: