This list of ingredients was enough to get my mouth watering: Champlain Orchards’ apple cider syrup, local butter and heavy cream, and the star of the show – Vermont pumpkin puree. Champlain Orchards in the beautiful Lake Champlain Valley of Vermont is making its first pumpkin pies this year, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Not that this is a new operation. The family-owned farm has been growing and experimenting with apple varieties for 100 years, raising over 40 varieties, and producing fresh cider and applesauce, as well as peaches, cherries, fruit pies and every vegetable you can imagine. Besides the farm market, online and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) sales, customers are welcome to come and pick their apples fresh off the trees while enjoying the views of Lake Champlain, Vermont’s Green Mountains and New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Owner and orchardist Bill Suhr has protected this beautiful hillside farm through conservation easements, and is ensuring the health of the land through integrated pest management (IPM), organic methods and a transitional organic orchard. This place makes one thankful for local growers.
Together with farm market manager Andrea Scott, Bill is expanding the business’s apple products this first year of a three-year Value Added Producer Grant of $147,000 that is providing working capital to the operation. The farm will press more of its 40,000 annual bushels of apples for cider, applesauce, and the more specialized cider syrup and zesty ice cider. In the second year they will focus on the farm market and gift order operations. In response to their market surveys, they will roll out pick-your-own organic vegetables and IPM peaches, and extend their sale of vegetables at both ends of the growing season by constructing a solar heated greenhouse and root cellar.
Differentiated (organic and IPM) production of apples, fruits and vegetables, local sales, farm stand sales and Champlain Orchards-identified produce distributed elsewhere for sales all increase the value of the raw products and the income to the owner. In three years, processing 30,000 bushels of apples, extending the season for organic vegetables and farm stand retailing of IPM peaches should increase the value of the raw agricultural commodities from $66,000 to $735,000 worth of valued added products.
Looking down the road to processing their own organic pumpkins into pies, the farm stand kitchen experimented this week with their own recipe. The proof will be in the tasting on Thanksgiving Day, but I predict it will be a winner.
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