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Posted 5/1/2012 8:34am by Ben Wenk.

I try to answer every question I'm asked - from regular customers to random web wanderers.  But if there is any query that is likely to stand out from the crowd, it's an intriguing question from a web lurker overseas.  We received a comment matching this description (ref. "Ask" vol II) from Prasanjit this week, checking in from India:

Prasanjit said,
4/30/2012 @ 3:23 am

We're located in the city of Mumbai, India. We have lawys loved growing our own veggies, and I decided to grow an apple seedling, from the seed of a Granny Smith apple. After it sprouted and began to leaf well, I tried the same with Gala and Red delicious apples too. Now I have 4-5 young saplings, 2 each of GS and Gala, and one of Red Delicious.

I have now begun to realise that I will likely not get a GS apple from a GS sapling. However, is it possible for me to graft between these saplings I've grown from seed, and obtain a GS/Gala/Red delicious apple? Do let me know. I would really love to be able to grow these on our farmland, and atleast receive one type of edible apple from these 5 saplings I'm growing.

Thank you.

seedling rootstock treeThank you, Prasanjit!  It's actually a fairly difficult thing to rear an apple tree from a seed, so you're doing quite well for starters.

For the history buffs out there, grafting has been an agricultural practice for more than 4000 years by some accounts.  Even today all fruit orchards depend on the skilled grafting hand of a nurseryman to provide the trees that feed people.  The same is true for any number of nut trees, grape vines, and a whole slug of ornamental trees and plants.  

To address your question, you can graft any variety on those those seedlings and produce apples of a variety you prefer.  What you'll need is some scionwood (budwood) and a little education.  Just to reemphasize for clarity, you'll need to have cuttings of a living, growing Red Delicious or Granny Smith tree to have the budwood to graft over the seedlings.  

Without knowing the diameter of your seedling, it's hard to provide foolproof advice.  Provided your seedling trees are at least 5/8 inches in diameter (that's about 16mm), you should have enough plant material to chip bud your seedlings.  You'll want to leave the top of the tree grow and make leaves to feed the rest of the tree.  Using the chip budding techniques in the videos below, you'll be able to attach several buds to each seedling and they should grow - provided your cuts were straight and sterile and your union (cambium to cambium for all my fellow botany nerds) is good.  

What might be fun is to leave the top of the tree, the old variety, in long enough to try some fruit before you cut it out.  Sure, it may be nothing like the Granny smith you hoped for, but it might be a good variety, you never know.  Perhaps it will be a new discovery - the world's greatest apple!  Just don't forget who suggested leaving that branch in when the budwood is distributed!

And if the apples aren't good, just cut that part out!

- Farmer Ben


Further "Ask A Grower" reading:

Posted 1/13/2012 1:15pm by Ben Wenk.

vintage Farmall - Farm Show, courtesy Philly Food FeedSometime I was annointed media ambassador for the PA apple-growing community.  When it happened and who was responsible remain a mystery but it's under investigation.  Regardless, we've got a smattering of news items in the wake of our volunteering time at the PA Farm Show.  If you didn't know, the two apple stands at the Farm show are organized by the State Horticultural Assocation of Pennsylvania and 100% of the proceeds from these booths supports industry research that benefits all of us, from we growers to all you hungry apple-eating customers reading along.

First up was local FOX 43 television, WPMT in York when I do my best Brett Thackera impression and talk weather in this short clip

Then the next day, Penn State Glee Club Alumnus and meteorologist Brett Thackera's colleague Dennis Owens tries to get me to bad mouth organic farming.  Not taking the bait, folks.  Thankfully, he was able to catch up with PASA executive direction Brian Snyder who is much more qualified to speak on behalf of PA organic growers than I am!  Good job, Brian!  And by the way, I've coined the phrase, you may all use the term "local-er" with my permission.  You're welcome, world.

And of course, it's always nice to check in with one of my favorite Philly Food Folks, Ben of the Philly Food Feed.  He blogs farm show here - did a great job as usual.

Posted 8/25/2011 1:16pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmFolks, it's only under rare and unusual circumstances that I would even consider what I'm about to announce, but I hope folks will understand that these are the very circumstances with which we are faced.


Three Springs will not be attending Sunday's Headhouse Farmers Market or Greenbelt Farmers Market 8/28 in light of the expected landfall of Hurricane Irene.


Philadelphia customers are encouraged to find your favorite Three Springs peaches and apples at any/all of the following fine retailers: Weaver's Way Coop, Sue's Produce in Rittenhouse, GreensGrow Farms, Green Aisle Grocery, and Harvest Local Foods.  Please note, an announcement regarding the status of Sunday's Headhouse Market in general from The Food Trust is forthcoming.  The market itself could remain open - please check their Facebook, Twitter, and mailing lists for up to the minute details.


Greenbelt customers are encouraged to visit us this Saturday at Silver Spring Farmers Market, as well as next Saturday at Silver Spring Farmers Market between Fenton and Georgia Avenues on Ellsworth Drive, downtown Silver Spring.  The Greenbelt Farmers Market does not operate the day before labor day.  Please be aware also, an official decision regarding the status of the Greenbelt Farmers Market in general is also forthcoming and I encourage everyone to await offical word from their Facebook, Twitter, and email correspondence regarding whether or not the market proper will be open this Sunday.


I felt like I had to be proactive in regards to making a decision for our farm in advance of these official decisions regarding weather cancellations because I needed to devote the extra attention to getting the most out of our Saturday markets as a result.  I also feel strongly that these markets will not be open, having seen the updated path of the Hurricane. 


I don't need to explain to folks that, with the additional cancellation of our Wednesday Health and Human Services market due to after effects of the earthquake, that having four markets in one week rather than seven at the heighth of our season is certainly a step in the wrong direction.  Furthermore, the winds and weather resulting from this Hurricane are likely to affect the quality and supply of everything we grow on our farm including, notably, our Honeycrisp and Gala apple crops, the lion's share of which remains unharvested as of right now and is likely to become "windfalls" - an unmarketable product. 




Keep smiling, folks.  It's bound to get better.  We've endured freaky weather before.


PS, if someone is willing to make the jump from "plague of locusts" to stinkbugs... plus the weather we're having...  nah, just a coincidence!

Three Springs Fruit Farm

See, smilin' already!


-  Farmer Ben

Posted 7/14/2011 9:19am by Ben Wenk.

Bee Blog-A-Loo-La!

bee working apple blooms at 3Springs, 2009That's right, we're talking family 'Apidae' on the blog today.  The whole food system breaks down without bees and their closest relatives out there spreading pollen and getting fruits and veggies blossoms pollinated.  It's a tale of human-subhuman symbosis with a sweet payout for the whole human race.  Let's learn about honey,
pollination, CCD, and native bees and remind ourselves that we humans aren't so keen and evolved to overcome our reliance on a bunch of trained, eusocial insects.

Without getting into the nitty gritty horticultural details, all varieties of apples, many sweet cherries, many plums, and many pears all need a second pollen source to be fruitful.  That is to say a whole block of Jonagold apples will hardly yield any fruit at all without a second (and compatable) pollen source planted in proximity and, of course, our friendly bees for effective pollen

local, less-traveled bees still strong enough to swarm 2009When I was a youth and our farm was smaller and nearly entirely apples, we rented a lot of bee hives from our local apiary.  I can remember these days well, since Dad would always meet the "bee man" after dark when the bees were docile and less active to strategically place them where they'd most effectively pollinate our orchards.  As our farm progression continued over the years and our crops became more diversified, the peaches, apricots, cherries, and more recently berries, veggies, plums etc. are blooming earlier than the apples.  By planting more diverse crops that bloom over a longer period of time, we saw more pollination occuring from native and feral bee populations because we were were providing more food for them over a longer period of time.

And about this time was when Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) became a national
problem effecting Honeybees.  Fortunately, our bees were raised locally and these
beekeepers (or at least ours) had little problem with CCD - these bees never bee shelter for Biddinger pollinator experiment, 3Springstravelled far enough to contract the effects from other populations and since we
never spray insecticides during bloom, they weren't exposed to anything harmful.  So while the rental prices went up, as they should, we had been building native
pollinator populations, rented less bees and continued to have pollinator success.

So when my former boss and Penn State Entomology Department researcher Dr. David Biddinger (see video) at the local Fruit Research and Extension Center needed somewhere to establish a trial to assess different structures that might attract native pollinators, we leapt at the chance.  Now our orchards are being graced by a multitude of different pollinators.  Our veggie patch - the same!  And, as part of our commitment to continual improvement of
practices with the Food Alliance, we have established plantings of wildflowers to further increase these native bee populations.  We'll also be maintaining our own bumble bee populations to help pollinate our sweet cherries.

So as you can see, there's more to the bee than that sweet, local, allergy-fighting, biscuit-sweetening honey that we all know and love.  And I hope I've impressed upon everyone just what a treasure we have in bees.  They are out there every year helping our silly human race feed ourselves and sustain ourselves for another day.  So small, so vital, so grossly underappreciated - three cheers for



check out more on Three Springs Fruit Farm Growing Practices or for further, in depth topics:


Growing Greener Blog Series:

Posted 3/21/2011 12:44pm by Ben Wenk.

everything old...The year 2010 was one for the books!  It had its ups and downs and tested our mettle in a lot of ways, but we're all the better for it.  There was plenty doing on the farm, where a new building project, drought conditions, lightning strikes, and stink bugs kept us manically occupied.  Market wise, we tried new market endeavors at Silver Spring, H&HS building, Crossroads, Greensgrow Farms, and, briefly, The Piazza at Schmidts (was that all?).  In other news, our apples were eaten by the President of the United States of America and we became our local industry's first Food Alliance certified fruit farm.  Relive all this and more in our Blog Highlights 2010, farm photos, and press clippings from 2010.  We'll also update you on our offseason and have a peek ahead into what to expect in 2011.  Enjoy!


The Year in Blog!

The previous year in review... is new again!

Crunchberry and Schnozberry Planting Season

Random 3Springs YouTube sightings!

Growing Greener: Lower Toxicity Materials

FAQ: Clingstone vs. Freestone peaches

We Get Zapped By Lightning

FAQ: Are White Peaches Sweeter?

The Drought Breaks, Hear The People Singing!

Oddball Apple & Tomato Anomolies

Food Alliance Certified

The History of the much-malligned Red Delicious <check out a commenter from Spain!>

Barack Obama: Leader of the Free World, Eater of our Fruit

Ask A Grower: What's a cider, what's a juice?

2010 Baltimore Orioles Apple Lineup

2010 NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies Apple Lineup

Three Springs' 1st PASA Field Day

IPM Video Blog


The Year in Pictures



Press Clippings


Offseason review: Nov. '10 - April '11


We take offseason education very seriously around here, as this story suggests.  This year, I wanted to spend some time quantifying that fact.  Below is a listing of all the leadership meetings and educations meetings we attended this offseason between Thanksgiving and the first Silver Spring Market.

  • Haygrove High Tunnels Mtg, Dec (Lancaster)
  • Future Harvest CASA, Reisterstown (presenter)
  • PA Farm Show (54 man hours - Harrisburg)
  • 3 Vendors Meetings for Farmers Markets
  • FarmCredit Ag Business Class - Webinar, 3 meetings
  • State Horticultural Assoc. of PA - 5 meetings combined
  • Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention (Hershey - 3 days, presenter)
  • Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (State College, 2 days, presenter)
  • Adams County Fruit Growers Association Ann'l Meeting
  • County Ag Summit
  • half day meeting with our tree fruit extension educators (stink bug preparedness)
  • Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board (2 mtgs)
  • Wholesale Marketing Seminar (Syria, VA)


We spend a lot of time fixing equipment as well, in addition to long term business planning (including planting plans) and getting our signs ready for market season - all those details.  There's all kinds of training and permits to achieve before markets start as well.  We do have time for leisure as well including events like Fair Food Philly's "Brewer's Plate" and the occasional music performance in the area.  I like to play a little music too - I crammed over 20 performances into this little offseason window and visited some out of town friends.


Looking Ahead to 2011

A formal announcement of our market schedule for 2011 is forthcoming, but I'm willing to get the details out to those folks brave enough to keep reading this far down!  We were doing too much last year, so there are a few changes.  Here's the preliminary plan:

  • FRESHFarm's Silver Spring Market - back starting April 2nd (at the Panera location) and staying every week 'till Christmas
  • Headhouse Farmers Market - back and better than ever!  Market starts May 1.
  • Kenilworth Farmers Market - back at a new, larger area of the same parking lot!  Come "down the hill" from Stebbins to shop with us starting May 3rd!
  • Greenbelt Farmers Market - back in our corner stand again in 2011!  Opening week is May 8th!
  • FRESHFarm's Health & Human Services Market - back with new times!  Join us every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm over your lunch break under our new, shady tent!  Market starts May 18th!


We made the decision not to return to Crossroads Farmers Market and Greensgrow Farmers Market in 2011.  We like those markets a lot and we especially like the people operating them who are top notch and true, geniune local food advocates.  It was a hard decision for us to make, but we felt we were over-extended and needing to cut back on our markets for this year.  PLEASE, if you were a customer there, please continue to patronize these markets because they are terrific and run by some pretty special people.  There are a couple other options we are considering for markets in 2011, but what you see could be what you get for us this year.


And with that, we're only 12 days away from the first Silver Spring market of 2011!  It's about that time, folks!

Posted 11/11/2010 2:59pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmFolks, we really do care about providing the tastiest, healthiest, local product around.  In this selection from our YouTube Channel, we go in depth about what distinguishes us from conventionally raised tree fruit.  Topics covered include partnering with the folks at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center, Pheromone Mating Disruption, scouting with pheromone traps, and our basic philosophy regarding our growing methods.

for further reading:

or Three Springs Growing Practices

Posted 8/13/2010 11:01am by Ben Wenk.

Food Alliance Certified Producer

Here we are in August, the busiest harvest time of the season.  We're picking peaches, plums, pluots, apples, pears, blackberries, tomatoes (need I continue)... but!  Despite all of this, my lack of willingness to be inside when the sun is out, and the general rigors or late summer/early fall, I'm writing this blog entry to inform everyone about something very important.  Three Springs Fruit Farm is Food Alliance Certified.

I know what you're thinking - "fancy words, what do they mean"? That's a great place to start! Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization, established so that producers such as ourselves who effort every day to be on the forefront of what it means to be a sustainable farm can have our practices verified through an independent third party inspection. 
Food Alliance certification standards set a high bar for agricultural and food industry sustainability.  These standards are available for anyone to view on their website.  When you see the Food Alliance Certified seal on your food, you can be certain those who grew it practice intensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM), reduce their use of pesticides, and chose pesticides with low toxicities.  You can be sure that the farm on which this food was grown preserves topsoil, conserves water, and doesn't allow excesses of soil, water, or nutrients to leave cropped areas and enter wild areas.  You can rest assured a Food Alliance Certified producer maintains and promotes wildlife habitat on his or her acreage, that the employees of this farm are highly valued and treated as such, and that we are committed to continually improving our sustainability practices.The Food Alliance Certified seal denotes the most comprehensive third party certification in North America.

Why did we pursue such an intensive undertaking? The answer was two-fold. First, we thought we deserved recognition for going the extra mile to grow our fruit in this way. While we always will think of our growing practices as "doing the right thing" and that's good in and of itself, it was worth it to have someone verify these things because, two, others have made claims all the time. The second reason we sought certification is because our word against someone else's is only so valid. When an uncertified grower makes a claim about growing practices or water conservation, each customer can assign as much truth to that claim as he or she would like. Now that we are a Food Alliance Certified producer, and our apples, peaches, pears, and cherries are Food Alliance Certified products, we can make these claims and customers can accept them with full confidence. It's not my word against the word of someone else - it's an independently verified fact.

In a lot of respects, this is our way of rewarding our farmers market customers for their confidence in the past. You've met us, got to know us, and you've looked me and my friends and family in the eye at market and believed us when we told you that we're doing our best to grow your food in the most sustainable way we can. So here's the validation of what our farm has been telling you when you come to market. It's something we're passionate about and something we don't take lightly. Thank you for relying on our farm in the past and thanks for supporting your only local Food Alliance certified fruit growers in the future!

Farmer Ben

here's a link to our press release (link) - thank you, PASA!

more Three Springs Growing Practices, or

Three Springs Fruit Farm

Posted 5/17/2010 3:41pm by Ben Wenk.

The internet can be a pretty weird place sometimes.  If you ever lacked proof of this, two seperate websites had videos of me (of all people) gabbing about this and that in two weeks time!

Crop Life America wants to get the word out on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) - a passion shared by all of us here at Three Springs Fruit Farm.  This seven minute video is shot during bloom season at the farm and gives you a close look at how IPM is performed in our pretty orchards.  Sorry, I think my bias came through there a bit at the end.

At the time this video was shot, we were under the impression we'd be at Bethesda on Saturdays.  Now we're at Silver Spring Farmers Market instead - the subject of the video posted below.  Good background tunes - I need to bribe the Silver Spring buskers down to our end of the market!  We've got yummy strawberries...


update (6/3/10)

Local Washington DC News 8 coverage of the FRESHFarm Markets Health & Human Services Market Grand Opening!


Posted 7/23/2009 3:02pm by Ben Wenk.

When Three Springs expanded their farm acreage in 1985, a house was purchased for David Wenk's family.  Included with the purchase was 42 bearing acres of 'Montmorency' sour cherries formerly belonging to the Musselman company.  Two short years after, two harvesting machines were bought from a farmer in Michigan and we've been shaking things up ever since.  Mechanically harvested cherries are processed at nearby Knouse Foods Cooperative and made into Lucky Leaf brand pie filling.

The same machines, seen here harvesting a new planting of sour cherries in 2009, travel on either side of the row of trees being harvested.  David's machine, on the left as you view the tree, grips and shakes the tree.  Banks of tarps catch the bouncing cherries and trickle them down toward the truck where John's machine (on the right) collects the cherries on conveyor belts.  The cherries travel towards the operator onto a second conveyor which carries the fruit up and drops them into a steel tank of icy water.

video by Ryan E. Taylor