Doe Creek Farms offers apples, outdoor experiences
PEMBROKE, Va. (Oct. 10, 2017) — Location, a unique customer base, diversity and savvy combine to make Doe Creek Farms successful in the New River Valley.
Georgia Haverty recently hosted the New River Valley Chapter of the Virginia Young Farmers and Ranchers at a twilight tour of the orchard on the farms which are home to four separate businesses.
The tour, one of a series sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension, was designed to help others decide if they want to create similar businesses after learning hows and whys of operation.
Haverty spoke informally from a wheel chair due to a fracture she recently suffered in a fall while loading cider apples at another orchard.
She was still able to lead a tour of the cider room with the help of a single crutch.
She traced some of the history of the farm her parents bought in 1978 and explained how she had lived there with her young family, left to work in Northern Virginia to work for the government, and returned to the farm in 2012 to take over the orchard which is the best known of the enterprises on the farm.
The group visited specifically to learn about Haverty’s experiences with dwarf apples.
She spent much of the evening sharing her information but also told about the other operations on the farm that has included an orchard for decades.
The other businesses are a kennel operated by her daughter and son-in-law, a wedding venue and a beef cattle cow/calf herd.
Doe Creeks Farm is located just over a mile from U.S. 460 West, a major artery to Blacksburg.
The nearness to Virginia Tech is a major factor in the customer base, she said.
Students come in groups, she said, and usually buy only a few apples at a time. But they come back often, bring parents and enjoy the outdoor experience. They also get married on the farm at her daughter’s wedding venue. Then they post the information on social media, providing Doe Creek free advertising.
“They are my marketing plan,” she said.
Haverty, who does much of the maintenance of the orchard of 1,600 dwarf apple trees, said she did not like the tall old apple trees she came home to years ago so she had them all bulldozed in preparation for planting the dwarfs. She added she is looking forward to planting more trees to have 2,300 in her orchard.
Her first project upon arriving at the farm was to build as 10-foot high woven wire fence around the site of the orchard. This is necessary to protect the orchard from the deer which abound on her mountain side and throughout the NRV. During the tour a herd could be seen grazing in pasture just beyond the fence.
Doe Creek is basically a pick-your-own operation, selling apples by the pound.
A long winding farm road leads to the apple operation. This is an asset for Haverty as it is the only entrance and helps her keep track of who is on the property. In another effort to control the flow of visitors, she has planted her orchard in front of her farmhouse and apple barn. The rows run up and down a hill which faces south, offering her some protection from early spring frosts.
“April is a scary time for me,” she told the group. She felt fortunate for not suffering damage to fruit the last two seasons when frost came early.
She opens the rows of apples in sequence and uses red and green flags as well as signs explaining the flags to let customers know which rows are open. This has not worked well, she said, so she is planning to use caution tape next year to mark off the closed rows.
She offers a wide variety of old and new apples to meet the demand from both locals and her visitors, especially her growing Asian customer base. They like Fuji apples so she grows several varieties.
The barn is a busy place until closing time at 2 p.m. Saturday when it changes from an apple house to a wedding venue.
Cider is one of several value added items sold at Doe Creek. The most popular is apple butter and the small jars are often bought to be wedding favors, she said. She makes the apple butter herself in small quantities. Other products she makes on the farm are apple jelly, chutney and apple syrup.
Haverty said she enjoys people visiting for two months of the year when the apples are ripe but is glad to return to pruning trees the rest of the year.
Haverty said the family has taken the time to find what works for them and put it together for a good result. One of the decisions Haverty has made is not to expand further into agritourism.
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