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Dr Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
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Ok so time to dish on Appalachia. The last month's been a lot of truckin around in the hills, taking very nervous family farms through the first food safety audit.

And you know what? THEY DID FINE
For all the mythos surrounding West Virginia, you don't really hear about their orchards.

You hear a lot about the mountains being rocky, hilly, & "bad for farming," which, false.

They're bad for farming GRAIN. And actually pretty great at most other things.
Poor soil & hills work out fine for fruit trees. The slopes keep frosts from damaging fruit, and rich soil actually makes the trees grow a lot of leaf & not enough/poor quality fruit.
The one hazard they do have to deal with is rain.

Nobody says it out loud. But thanks to wet air from both the Atlantic & the Gulf, most of Appalachia is cloud forest. Gorgeous, lush, Misty, dripping cloud forest.
The trees love it. But so do the fungi.

Traditionally, fruit grown in rainy places are great for juicing, sauce, canning, & other processing. But not for selling whole.

It's NOT a "don't want spots on my apples" thing. Fruit w any skin damage, including spots, go bad real fast.
But, crop health has come a REALLY long way in the last 20 years. And Appalachian orchardists are getting really good at only spraying when absolutely needed to save crop, bc the new safer, high-protection fungicides cost up to $1,000 a jug.
Bottom line, a couple decades ago southern orchards tended to get 1-2 sprays a week.

Now, it's once every 2-3 weeks.

Which means they can run 500+ acre orchards w just 1-2 air blast rigs. Leaves the farms more time & money to invest in postharvest handling & sales.
But, because of the processing-only legacy, the family farms are still planted in processing varieties like Idared. Not so much on fresh eaters. To take advantage of new possibilities, farms have had to replant & topwork in new varieties. Completely remodel their orchards.
It's been a big bottleneck, but I just wanna say the farms busting over that hurdle right now are kicking ass.
Appalachia is not an easy region to do business in.* It's hard to get & keep a workforce at all. And unlike California there's not the huge farm service provider network (practically no H2A crews, crop health doctors, food safety trainers, etc) that CA orchards take for granted.
Case in point: in CA, if they want to work w a food safety trainer to prep for their audit, a farm has dozens of options within their county.

My VA farm brought their trainer in from TN. The WV farms had to get someone from *Georgia.*
Which is nuts, bc Appalachia has brilliant farm country. There's miles of orchards. The cool, misty weather (and mild winters in the foothills & southern mountains) are gorgeous dairy country. It's like if Ireland had a lot of trees & also was enormous.
The steady rain means there's cold, clear water in abundance. Appalachia's been a huge trout growing region for decades as a result.

It grows bumper crops of veggies the rest of the South is too hot to grow: pumpkins, leafy greens, peas, etc.
One of the farms had a rad old barn
ps. if anyone wants old fruit ladders lmk, the farm can't use them anymore but they're Very Elegant. Nice flare from base to top.
(who else likes cloud forests? bug & spiders my dudes)
In conclusion, Appalachia is a land of contrasts
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