Grocery Store Guru

All about the grocery industry, from a store level perspective.

Apple Picking Disappointments

It seems that there’s a lot of things stacked against large families these days. With 5 kids (and 3 of them still in diapers), we struggle to keep to the 2 bag garbage maximum every week. When you go to an attraction, the “family rate” almost always includes 2 adults and 2 kids, which barely covers half of my family. The local beach demands that there’s 1 adult for every 2 kids, meaning we can’t go there either.

One of our annual traditions with the kids is to go apple picking. The little ones love it, and it gives me the chance to teach them something about where their food comes from. There’s a local orchard that we go back to every year – the apples are always great and, more importantly, the people that own the farm are happy to talk to me and the kids about farming. I’m always a big advocate for local farmers, and having the kids hear an actual farmer talking about what he has to do and what the challenges are is really valuable to me.

I was gutted this year when I found out that the orchard I always go to was closed this year because, of all things, a pipeline that was being built on the property. I already knew it was going to be a tough year for apple picking thanks to the unseasonable warm weather we had in the early spring – it caused the trees to bloom early, and the frost that followed killed a lot of the blossoms. But I would have still visited the farm, even if it was to pick up some pre-picked apples and talk to the farmers!

My lovely wife, knowing how much the kids look forward to apple picking, went on a mission to find another local orchard we could visit. She found one – Dixie Orchards (http://www.dixieorchards.com/). I wish I had visited the website first – I wouldn’t have bothered making the trip.

We bundled up all of the kids (it was cold this morning!) and off we went to the orchard – Me, my wife, our 5 kids and my mother and father in law. We got there and prepared to head out to the apple trees, and stopped in front of a large sign that announced that there was a $2 admission fee. Add up the people that we had with us, and that makes $18 for the privilege of picking the apples that we’re going to pay for, too. I have come across picking fees before – but every time, this fee would be used against the cost of the fruit that you picked. So if I paid a $10 picking fee, and picked $50 worth of fruit, I would pay $40…. but that wasn’t the case here. It was a straight admission fee to get to the trees.

If my in-laws hadn’t been there to calm me down, we would have left on the spot. I’m all for supporting local farmers, but I don’t like being taken advantage of either. They tried to justify the charge, telling us it had been a bad year for apples. If that’s the case, charge more for the apples (which they also did). Their website tells us that they’re a family oriented orchard – apparently unless you’re a large family, and their admission fee makes what used to be an affordable family trip into something that isn’t quite as affordable anymore.

To their credit, they eventually dropped the admission fee to $10 (which I still wouldn’t have paid had we been there alone), and in we went. We picked almost $80 of apples – we store the apples in a cold and dry environment, to make them last. We always do this, as a way to support the local growers as opposed to buying the US apples that often end up in the grocery store. But the fact that they were ready to tack on an extra 25% to my apple bill for admission still sticks in my throat.

I know that some people will read this and wonder why I’m so angry about something that in the grand scheme of things is minor. There’s a good reason! Anyone who reads what I write here and other places knows that I am a big supporter of buying local. To spend the time I do to try and convince people to support their local growers, and then to find out that the growers are making themselves less accessible, is incredibly frustrating and disheartening. If someone who believes what I believe can show up to an apple orchard and think “why didn’t I just go to the grocery store?” (which I did), imagine what the casual picker is thinking. Explain to me, Mr. Local Farmer, when I can get apples at the grocery store for the same price or less (Royal Gala were .99/lb at Freshco last week), why am I coming to see you and let you nickel and dime me to death?

So heads up, Orchalaw Farms – your minimum charge for pick your own is alright with me – I’m still paying for apples that I get to keep. But if you start charging admission, I’ll be ending our 15 year relationship as well.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat an apple.

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment