Reid's Orchard produces fewer apples but sees more quality

In this Nov. 5, 2019 photo, Brad Reid sorts the last apples of the season in the apple house at Reid's Orchard in Owensboro, Ky.

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — At the rear of a building inside Reid's Orchard, jonagold apples from this year's harvest vibrated across a conveyer belt as they were closely examined, washed and then graded into "1s" or "2s."

Billy Reid, owner and operator of Reid's Orchard, said the jonagold variety "1s" were being prepared to be sold locally during the upcoming holidays and the "2s" would be turned into apple cider.

"We'll freeze about 1,000 gallons of cider to sell next summer," Reid said.

For Reid, this was the culmination of an apple harvest that wasn't as bountiful as past years, but it wasn't the late summer drought that lowered his yield.

Reid said most of the apples had been picked before the September drought and the unseasonal heat could affect the crop. Apple harvesting typically starts about the end of August.

"It was mainly the freeze in the springtime," Reid said. "We lost some of the buds. We probably ended up with a 65% crop from the freeze."

Reid estimated a harvest of about 5,000 bushels or 210,000 pounds of apples.

Despite not having the volume of apples, there was a positive side to the year's harvest for Reid.

"What was nice about it was the quality; the quality was excellent this year," he said. ". . . Sometimes I prefer a better quality than a big volume."

Reid grows 30 varieties of apples with yellow delicious making up about 50% of what he produces.

Although the apples are more associated with their bright red skins, Reid said the red delicious variety isn't preferred in this area.

"Our customers just like that sweet, yellow delicious because it's an all-purpose apple for eating, cooking, salads," he said. ". . . The red delicious has always been promoted but it's not the No. 1 apple anymore. It's the symbol everybody sees."

The average life span of an apple tree is from 20 to 25 years.

And planting new trees and varieties is an ongoing process for Reid. On each of the 18 acres he uses to grow his apples, there will be 100 to 300 high-density apple trees per acre.

It used to take up to seven years for an apple tree to start producing, but that has been reduced to about four years after planting. And every 20 years or so, apple rootstocks are changed out because of various advances.

"You can get into production quicker with the high density and the quality is better," Reid said. ". . . The apple industry is always changing its root system. The peaches are still the same rootstock my grandfather used 100 years ago.

Reid's Orchard has been operating in Daviess County for 147 years.

Reid's is widely known for its apples and established the two-day Reid's Apple Festival in 1986, which draws thousands of people to the orchard every October.

Along with the apples, other fruits such as peaches, pears and strawberries are raised there along with assorted vegetables.

Billy Reid, a fourth-generation farmer, is also helped out by his three children — Brad, Katie and Valorie.

"We all have our little niche," said Katie Clark, who manages her family's Apple House and oversees the greenhouses. ". . . But I think it's important that we're here not only for our family but also for the community."

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Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com

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