Along with pumpkin patches and colorful leaves, the fall season means that it’s time for apple picking! There are few better places to engage in this time honored tradition than the Berks County, PA, where farms and orchards abound and the harvest is always full of fresh, juicy fruits.
We took some time to hear from Kim and Wade Fluke of County Line Orchard in Kempton, PA, about apple picking this year. Their pick-your-own offerings extend throughout the growing season, but they’re especially excited about apples this year, and so are we!
“County Orchard began in 1982 when Rudy Mohr, of Mohr Orchards, planted the first trees on the farm,” Kim and Wade said. “In 1987, Todd Smith bought the farm and began planting more varieties, building cold storage and expanding the market. Wade started working for Todd in 2006 and we bought the farm from Todd and Cindy in 2021, when they decided to retire. We have been growing for the past three years and are slowly removing old trees so we can plant new varieties and focus more on pick-your-own.”
Providing great variety is part of what sets County Line Orchard apart from the crowd.
“In the market we offer fruit grown on the farm. We have a wide variety of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, apricots, and blueberries in season. The choices vary through the season as new varieties come in and others go out. We also partner with other local farms and bakers to offer fresh vegetables, cider, applesauce, juice, jellies, honey and our own fruit butters,” they said.
“Pick-your-own season starts at the beginning of July when blueberries ripen,” the Flukes continue. “They last through mid-August. Pick-your-own apple season usually begins the last weekend of August and lasts till the end of October. Customers can bring their own containers or use buckets provided here and may pick any of the varieties that are ripe that weekend. The price for apples is $1.50 per pound this year.”
Like all farming, not everything goes to plan all the time, and the recent dramatic weather has been hard on the crops at County Line. “A highly unusual freeze near the end of May reduced the variety of apples we have to offer for pickers. We still have a good amount of Gala, Ozark Gold, and Rome Beauty. There will be lesser amounts of Honeycrisp, Suncrisp, Idared, Early Fuji and Goldrush. The freeze was less damaging to our trees at higher elevations and we have lots of good fruit coming into our market.”
“Farming is different every year and presents challenges even in the best years,” Kim and Wade stated. “We’re still having fun because of our customers who have been so supportive and have become friends to us and our children. We know just because we may lack some varieties this year it doesn’t mean we won’t have an awesome next year!”
When it comes to apple picking, some nay-sayers might wonder why you’d spend a day in the trees when you could simply pick up a handful of apples at the grocery store, but Kim and Wade understand the draw.
“Pick-your-own is all about the experience: the satisfaction of picking your own food, the crisp Autumn weather, and especially watching children as they learn where food comes from while having fun doing it! Customers also like the ability to mix varieties and choose apples that are the right size for them. Plus, it’s hard to get any fresher than picking an apple from the tree,” they said. “We believe supporting local means that family farms and the assorted businesses that are linked to them can survive into the future. We know we can’t compete on price with the huge growers that supply grocery chains, but we can compete on quality, freshness and unique varieties that people might not be able to get anywhere else.”
If you’re ready to welcome the start of fall, going apple picking with your friends and loved ones at County Line Orchard in Kempton is a great way to do it! Picking is available during the orchard’s normal market hours, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 pm. Don’t wait until the trees are picked clean, plan your visit today!