Solebury Orchards is one of my favorite places to visit and stock up on a variety of apples, some fresh-pressed cider, and that occasional bag of baked doughnuts. Lucky for me, and many others who shop the co-op, Solebury Orchards apples, cider, doughnuts, applesauce, apple butter, and other products can be found right here at the Doylestown Food Market every day of the week.
Sample Solebury Orchard apples, cider, and more:
- Fun First Friday, October 7, from 5-8 pm
- Sunday, October 23, from 1-3 pm
All Solebury Orchard products are discounted 20% throughout the month.
It was such a delight to interview Brian Smith, the owner, and active farmer and producer of Solebury Orchards. I loved learning the history of how Brian, at age 23, bought the property in 1985, without experience or a family history of farming. “Many farms are part of a family where one grows up in. This wasn’t my case at all. I was fortunate to be able to play with gardening and fruit growing with some open ground where I grew up. I sort of developed an interest in it. Initially, everything really grew out of an interest in health, fitness and nutrition. That interest grew into eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. And that turned into growing things.”
Although Brian was developing an interest in “growing things” at an early age, he did not, in his words, “have the farm concept as a career option.”
Brian continues, “Before farming, I went to school. I studied engineering. It was the only example I had of choosing a career and entering the job market. As I was in college I originally thought a farm is something I would do in my retirement. Then the thought slowly increased to, ‘Well, maybe I’ll work 10-20 years, then start a farm.’ Then that basically went all the way down to zero as I got more and more interested in starting to grow right away.”
Interviewing Brian allowed me to learn a bit more about the history of farming in this area. According to Brian, up until the 1950’s and ‘60’s, there were many local fruit and vegetable small farms in the area. Then the supermarkets came onto the scene, along with the ability to truck produce across the country from west to east. “By the time you got to the ‘80’s there were virtually no farms around here. Yes, there were always some farms growing corn and a few other things but the fruit and vegetable business was pretty much gone from the Bucks County area. And that’s when I started.”
Brian quickly asserts that now there are lots of young people starting vegetables farms in and around the area. He’s hoping that farming in this area will continue to become more and more of a viable option. And the farmers starting out today have resources and organizations to offer guidance and support. Brian states, “There was none of that when I started. I learned the hard way. I read everything I could, but reading is no substitution for learning on a farm. I had to figure it out on my own; I learned on the go.”
We’re very happy that Brian “learned on the go” because today the Orchards abound with rows of apple, peach, pear, cherry, plum, and apricot trees. New trees are planted each year. Blueberries and blackberries are grown.
Having the opportunity to chat with Brian allowed me to learn, understand, and appreciate how he successfully grows such beautiful and superbly tasting fruits. Solebury Orchards uses integrative pest management (IPM). “The pest control pressure in eastern growing conditions is significantly different than growing in arid desert environments like California and Washington state. For the humid, wet rainy weather than we can get at times in our area, we need to use synthetic fungus prevention sprays. It all comes down to proper timing, understanding the organism life cycle, and using the minimum amount so that control can be most efficient.”
Brian continued, “There is a misunderstanding about organics – organics still need to be sprayed and pests still need to be controlled. It’s just that the materials are naturally derived to be organically approved and at times that’s a questionable difference.” One example he referred to is the use of a copper spray as an organic fungicide on tomatoes. Brian thinks the copper is more detrimental than the synthetic fungicide. “Our ultimate goals are to be soft on the environment, easy on workers, and no residue for the consumer at the end. I think those things can be accomplished even with synthetic materials because they break down and are not persistent. The problem with earlier versions of pesticides is that they did not break down in the environment and created havoc.”
Listening to Brian’s explanation of how he responsibly tends to his trees and crops reminded me of my own personal wake up experience of choosing local apples over organic apples from Washington state which I shared with him. I was shopping at Costco a short while after joining the co-op, and up until then always chose “organic” over “local” for all my produce. When I saw a display of big, beautiful organic apples wrapped individually in thick plastic protective cases, knowing the distance they traveled to get here, and thinking about the fuel and packaging cost, I nearly bolted out of the store right then and there and headed straight for Solebury Orchards. I finally “got it.”
Brian was quick to follow up by adding that a local economy is always a good thing – no matter what it is. “Keeping a local economy healthy has a big value whether it’s the bank I’m using or where I purchase my produce and products. The more money resources are kept locally is always a good thing.”
The interview concludes with Brian commenting on how satisfying local production is to him. “Growing good quality, good tasting products is very inspiring. And we’re always growing new apple varieties; that’s always exciting.” Brian wouldn’t disclose his own personal favorites but did mention a couple of new apple varieties available, one called Solia Del Sol and another called Sweet Surprise – “both very good apples.”
Apple season at Solebury Orchards is September and October and finishing around the first week of November. Apples are stored through March so there are apples and fresh cider through that time period. Picking your own apples is an option and it’s always a personal delight for me to observe families enjoying a beautiful fall day by picking apples together.
You will have two joyous opportunities to sample Solebury Orchards apples:
Join us on Fun First Friday, October 7, from 5-8 pm for live music as well as as a tasting of a variety of apples, along with cider, and even some wine.
Then, to celebrate National Food Day, supporting this year’s theme “Apple Crunch” on Sunday, October 23, from 1-3 pm, we’ll be crunching into some Solebury Orchards apples in a unifying action to raise awareness about eating better for our health and our environment.