Apples lead Hollabaugh Bros.’ fall harvest offerings
BIGLERVILLE, Pa. — Even early in the fall harvest season, Hollabaugh Bros.’s had 10 apple varieties in the bins on their retail market’s expansive bin porch.
On the first weekend in September, those 10 apple varieties kept the tail end of the summer peach harvest — one nectarine and two peach varieties — company.
Those apples also signaled, for those who hadn’t quite noticed the plethora of pumpkin spice in all the stores that fall is here.
“The peaches and nectarines will likely be gone by the end of the weekend,” said Ellie Hollabaugh Vranich, a third-generation family member and Hollabaugh’s assistant business and market manager, “but the apple varieties will just keep increasing from here.”
Indeed, at the height of the fall harvest season, the bin porch of Hollabaugh’s 4,000 square foot retail market will be crammed with almost two dozen apple varieties.
In addition to those extensive offerings, there’s a pick-your-own component for urban visitors heading to the numerous fall festivals in nearby Gettysburg.
“Our retail market relies heavily on our local base,” Ellie explained, “but in the fall we are also a destination farm.”
That destination aspect peaks during the first two weekends in October when Adams County holds its annual Apple Festival at the South Mountain Fairgrounds just a few miles from the 500-acre farm. During those weekends, visitors are encouraged to visit both the festival and stop in on their way home to Hollabaugh’s for all things apple, including getting to know the wide variety of apple tastes there are.
“Our largest calling card is how many varieties we have in the bins,” agreed Bruce Hollabaugh, who is also a third generation family member as well as Hollabaugh’s production and field personnel manager. “Folks are not accustomed to getting 25 different varieties at one time in the year.”
“In fact, that’s part of the challenge,” he continued, “given the constantly different varieties coming down the pike” from the different apple breeding programs.
For orchard growers like Hollabaugh’s, “the big challenge right now is to make decisions on future plantings,” Hollabaugh said.
“You need to reserve root stocks three years in advance and then two years out you need to decide what varieties you are going to put on them. It can be tricky because customers can be fickle and apples not only can taste really, really good, but can also taste really different from each other,” he said.
Yet, having been the one who, according to his sister Ellie, “took the farm to the next level at the vegetable end of the farm’s production,” Bruce welcomes the challenges of being part of a “progressive fruit farm that is always in transition.”
Some of that forward thinking came in 2008 when, thanks to Hollabaugh Bros.’s longtime relationships with Pennsylvania State University Extension, the orchard was one of the first growers to participate in PSU’s grant project on trellising apple trees. “It’s because of those relationships, we were able to have them hold our hand and help us adapt to this newer system,” said Bruce.
Since then, the orchard has also begun trellising its other big fall tree fruit harvest — pears.
“We have nine or 10 varieties of pears that are producing,” Bruce continued, “and we’ve also planted three varieties of Asian Pears.”
Combined with its expanded vegetable offerings, Hollabaugh’s fall selections also include pumpkins and fall squash.
Apples, however, dominate their fall offerings, and then remain prominent throughout the winter months.
“Of course, it all depends on the crop year,” said Ellie, “but because we’re open year round, we try to store enough apples to keep them for sale all winter and into the spring.
“Our goal is to be sold out of apples by the time the early strawberries are starting to arrive.”
“We also store apples to bake with,” she continued, “with the goal of basically having year-round apple pies, dumplings and breads.” And, don’t forget the apple cider donuts. Yum!