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News and blog

Keep up to date with the latest news on the farm and at your market!
Posted 1/3/2011 9:15am by Ben Wenk.

PA Farm Show 2011

Happy New Year, fruit lovers!  I'd mentioned to our email subscribers that we can be found volunteering at the PA Farm Show each year.  If you're unfamiliar with this event, it's one of the largest of its kind.  It's a great chance to learn a lot about agriculture and, perhaps more famously, a terrific place to eat delicious food!  On display will be a wide diversity of animals to check out - plenty of different dairy cows and livestock plus what seems like one hundred different breeds of poultry and fowl - always my favorite fascination since my first trip as a little ag kid.  Antique farm equipment, tons of events including very popular rodeo competitions, informative exhibitions from local FFA students and merchants from all PA ag sectors - there's a great "Farm Show Dectective" program for children.  Anyone can learn something new at the farm show - I learn something new every year.  Of course, the Food Court is the star of the show with booths staffed with volunteers from many of the PA ag commodities (PA apple dumplings, PA fresh cut fries, PA trout sandwiches, PA thick milkshakes, PA lamb stew & beef sandwiches) and it's all prepared on site!  The farm show is free to enter, though parking is $10.  All those funds go to the PA Dept. of Agriculture which has taken hard and disproportionatey large budget cuts every year.  Food court purchases support the commodity boards, that is to say all the profit from our delicious apple dumplings funds vital research in the apple industry - research that benefits growers on the whole east coast, not only in Pennsylvania.  If you think you can make time to attend, I know you won't be disappointed.  Plus... you can chat it up with us at the following dates and times:


Monday 1/10/11 - Ben is helping at the Apple Exhibition in the Main Hall from sometime right after a delicious Food Court lunch until close (8pm)


Wednesday 1/12/11 - The whole crew:  brothers Dave & John, Ben, and possibly (hopefully) a few other familar faces will be pouring cider, warming dumplings and making apple & peach sundaes at the Apple Booth inside the Food Court from 3-9pm


The Farm Show is held annually at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA - a 2 1/2 hr drive from Washington, DC, a 1 1/2 hour drive from Towson, MD, and less than two hours away from sunny Philadelphia, PA.


You're certain to learn at least a little bit, over-eat a little bit, and lend a big hand to local agriculture.

Three Springs Fruit Farm







Posted 11/11/2010 3:35pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmRevived for the sake of posterity, not to mentionGo Phils! a little nostalgia, this apple lineup was the second one we created after the original lineup, the 2007 lineup (lost to the world) was such a hit.  Little did we know at the time that the 2008 Phils would go on to be "World Champions of Baseball!" (rest in peace, HK).  So take a nostalgic look back at the apple version of the 2008 World Series Champion Phillies!


Apple/Pear Varieties!

  • Honeycrisp - Ryan Howard, 1b - So his average is down a little bit, the man collected 48 HRs and an eye-popping 146 RBI and played well down the stretch.  That makes him number one on our apple buffet!
  • Jonagold - Chase Utley, 2b - Has to be a close second in terms of importance to the Phils success this year - great season all the way around driving in runs and collecting hits in bunches - Jonagold, also second most popular eating apple here at Three Springs
  •  Jonathan - Shane Victorino, of - The Flyin' Hawaiian - perhaps the most underrated member of the '08 Phils, just as Jonathan ranks as the most underrated apple at Three Springs.  A Jonathan apple as a snack is almost, but not quite as clutch as that Grand Slam last week!  Woo-hoo!
  •   Gold Delicious - Jamie Moyer, sp - Ya know, Golds have been around for ever.  You probably figure, "hey, I know Golds - it's nothing special".  But ya know what, people have been saying the same thing about Jamie Moyer for nearly 10 years and still nobody roughs him up!
  •  Smokehouse - Brad Lidge, closer - The man throws smoke and, despite a little bit of excitement from time to time (like a zesty, tart apple), he was perfect in save opportunities in the regular season!
  •  Grimes Golden - Jayson Werth, of - Finally living up to the billing that made him a high draft choice of my Baltimore Orioles (grumble, grumble), Werth transformed himself from platoon duties in '07 to appearing in 134 games this season and came up with a bunch of clutch hits along the way!  His likeness to Grimes Golden is based solely on the fact that my O's didn't hold onto him, making me a little sour (read: "tart").
  •  Gala - Pat Burrell, lf - Pat, I believe, is the longest-tenured Phillies player just as Gala is the apple we've been bringing to market the longest.  It might make both the player and the apple easy to overlook, but biting into a Gala is still as exciting as a 3-run homerun to break open a close game, just like game 4 this past Sunday!
  •  Bosc Pears - Jimmy Rollins, ss - After a roller coaster regular season, last year's MVP is leading the Phils in batting this postseason, tearing up Brewers pitching for a .375 clip thus far.  Sweet way to start up an offense if you ask me - just like a Bosc pear is a sweet pregame snack!  (yes, I'm reaching on some of these, but I just wanna pay homage to the Phils!)
  •  Yellow Bartlett Pears - Cole Hamels, sp - Sure, let the sportscasters talk up how tough Sabathia is - there was no sweeter pitching performance in the playoffs than Cole Hamels, Game 1.  Relive that sweet performance on the mound with a sweet, yellow Bartlett pear (excuse me for that, the cheesiest entry yet)

Apples new for this week (Phillies new for this year)

  •   Stayman - Geoff Jenkins, of - A guy who's been around awhile (Staymen, an older variety), but is new to the Phils.  A left handed slugger who can come off the bench and swat one out of the park!  Staymen are a big hit with late season apple eaters with a preference for crisp, juicy, and a mild tart flavor!  (you're asked to provide your own rimshots on these)
  •   Mutsu/Crispin - So Taguchi, of - Mutsu are from Japan... So is from Japan.  Mutsu grow to be very very large... So... looks like he stopped growing in middle school, but he's more than meets the eye!  He's a heck of a ballplayer with postseason experience!  Mutsu look green and tart but are much sweeter than you expect, with a history of being a great eating apple!
  •   Paradise - Pedro Feliz, 3b - Not a whole lot of juice in that bat this year, but he flashed some sweet leather!  You'll be interested to learn that this unique apple has a killer sweetness but is a little less juicy than most!
  •  Granny Smith - Matt Stairs, of - A grizzled veteran from a foreign land who arrives late and puts some more pop on your bench!  Stairs hails from Canada and came to Philly in a late season trade.  Only Jamie Moyer is older than Matt Stairs.  So while Matt's wife may or may not be old enough to be a Granny, Granny Smith apples arrive late in the season and will provide a real punch of tartness right off the tree and come to us from the foreign land of Australia!
  •   Canned Peaches! - Carlos Ruiz, c - Rugged and durable, Carlos Ruiz calls a good game and throws out would be base-stealers.  All of our fresh peaches have been sold or thrown out except the ones we put in these rugged, durable cans earlier in the year for when we'd "run out"!  "Good call", eh?!
  •    Fresh Apple Cider - Scott Eyre, rp - Eyre deserves some recognition for posting a phenomial 1.17 WHIP down the stretch after the Phils acquired him from Chicago.  Good thing the Cubs were "so good" they didn't need him, right?!  Hahaha!  Ok, got that cheap shot in there.  Eyre has been really good... our cider continues to be really, really good!


2009 Phillies Lineup

2010 Phillies Lineup


2010 Orioles Lineup

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 10/28/2010 3:57pm by Ben Wenk.

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable AgricultureThree Springs Fruit FarmPASA & Three Springs Fruit Farm team up for a Farm Tour and Q&A session about Food Alliance Certification!


Click to register for our Nov. 10th Farm Tour!



We get asked all the time "can we come out to the farm"?  "Can we pick your own at your farm"?  First of all, we're very flattered and we appreciate your interest.  We're still new at the farmers market game and we're not trying to bite off more than we can chew.  However, it did occur to me that it might be nice to invite all of our awesome customers out for a yearly tour - that folks would appreciate seeing exactly where their food comes from.  Already having that notion in my head, when we were honored with the opportunity to host a PASA Field Day on our farm I thought it would be a great chance to invite everyone out, see how things went and see if it's something folks would be into.  In the the case of this tour, your $25 registration fee will support one of the landmark Local & Sustainable Food Advocacy groups on the whole East Coast, PASA.  They are the voice of so many small, family-owned farms in the Mid-Atlantic and they host a terrific annual conference that I've attended regularly since starting our farmers market venture.  I hope you'll consider joining us on this tour.  It's catered by some great local food purveyors in our backyard, PLUS... by attending, you'll get an awesome, behind the scenes glimpse into the new and exciting crops you can expect to see at farmers markets in the future, such as the mysterious cruchberries and schnozberries of blogs past!  Please comment or email with any questions about this fun day in rural Adams County!

Posted 10/7/2010 3:46pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit Farm

Phils fan "Midge", an Eck/Wenk family peta






Alrighty, Phils fans!  Playoffs are in full swing again this year and we're back with another winning apple lineup!  As some of you already know, we've been doing farmers markets in Philly for four years and, not coincidentally, the Fightins have won the NL East every year (I'm definitely not omitting Chase Utley again this year)!  Furthermore, I've likened the Phillies players to our ripe apple varieties each year, leading, by in large, to terrific postseason performances like what we witnessed from Doc Halladay last night.  Afterall, I was brainstorming this lineup last night when I had to stop and watch history be made!  Bodes well, folks.  We've got high Apple Pie in the sky hopes!

- Roy "Doc" Halladay, SP  He's the best!  What else can you say?  He won 21 games, first 20 game winner since Steve Carlton.  Honeycrisp is the perfect eating apple, "Doc" threw a perfect game!  The National League is certainly wishing that an apple a day could keep "Doc" away (we don't sell to the competition).  side note: he's driving in a run as I type this!

Jonagold - Roy Oswalt, SP - The Phillies are set up for big things based on their "Bermuda Triangle" of starting pitching (H-2,O).  Our "Big Three" (which is really four) includes Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Gala (and Fuji, more on this later).  And since Roy was the last piece of the Triangle (as Jonagold is the last of these varieties to ripen), it's easy to see the similarity between this Texas righty and this... sweet/tart... crunchy piece of fruit... am I right?

Gala - Cole Hamels, SP - Cole was the first of the Triangle to arrive on the scene, in early August!  No, wait... those were the Gala.  Hamels has been with the Phillies since being a first round pick of the club in the 2002 draft.  He's had a bounce back season in 2010, has a really sweet flavor, and is the perfect size for kids lunchboxes!  Oh... switch that... err... I think you follow.

Fuji - Chase Utley, 2B - The man was an unstoppable force in last years postseason and this fruit grower is looking forward to more of the same from this slick-hitting second baseman.  In light of his unforgivable and errant initial exclusion in this lineup last year, Chase is taking his rightful place at the top of our apple pecking order.  Also, be sure to cut up a sweet Fuji apple to balance the tangy salad dressings or sharp cheeses in your postseason snacking.

Red Delicious
- Jayson Werth, OF - Jayson Werth's got a great look about him, with the bushy beard and the long hair.  Red Delicious looks good in a fruit bowl beside a banana!  ... sweet!

Golden Delicious - Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz, C - Phils fans, hear me out.  You know how you've exhausted yourself trying to explain how important Chooch is to the Phils to fans of other teams?  This is how I feel about folks who tell me Golds are mushy!  Most Underrated Phillie and Most Undeerrated Apple are a perfect pairing... kind of like Golds with Peanut Butter when the Phils are up four runs in the fourth (as I write this lineup Wednesday night).

Empire - Shane "The Flyin' Hawaiian" Victorino, OF - More proof that good things come in small packages, this diminuative switch hitter's 18 home runs was good for third on a team loaded with (albeit injured, in some cases this year) power hitters.  Empire apples, also generally smaller, are thin-skinned and tasty - a little more sweet than tart.

Ida Red - Wilson Valdez, IF - Worthy of attention, this journeyman filled in admirably, providing steady defense at many infield positions while many of the Phillies infield regulars missed time to various injuries.  Ida Reds fill pies well, provide firm, steady texture to many baking applications and fills many positions for apple fans who bake, enjoy a tart eating apples, or need a good cider base!

Nittany - Ryan Howard, 1B - When Ryan turns on that inside fastball, his creamy-smooth swing gets Phillies fans all charged up.  The creamy sweet-tart flavor of the Nittany apple is a real homerun for folks who love good eating apples (rimshot).

Cameo - Raul Ibanez, LF - The man who made Phillies fans forget completely about Pat Burrell is getting primed for the postseason.  Despite more moderate numbers in most power statistics, Ibanez hit for a slightly better average and got on base more frequently this year compared to last.  It's easy to let his torrid 2009 campaign make light of his key contributions to this year's club.  Cameo have super tart-sweet flavor and share a name with a funky 80's band... they can't all fit together nicely, folks!

Granny Smith
- Brad "Lights Out" Lidge, CL - He's back!  In addition to moonlighting as a local food advocate (cheers, Brad, Lindsay and Food Trust folks), he converted an eye-popping 27 of 32 save situations and put himself in contention for comeback player of the year, though I'm sure Brad would tell you he has his mind of some other hardware.  All he's done is show up at the end of games and kick the door shut.  By comparision, Granny Smiths show up at the end of the apple harvest season and, despite their very docile monicker, kick in with a booming tart flavor.

Rome Beauty - Ben Francisco, OF - Cliff Lee might have moved on, but he wasn't the only man to come over in that fateful trade from Cleveland.  Francisco, besides having the best praenomen on the roster (pip, pip) adds to a deep bench that can make or break a team's postseason bid.  He's also perfect in steals this season, swiping eight bags without being caught stealing.  If you're needing a sturdy apple to add to your playoff pie, we give Rome Beauty high marks.  We just ask that you pay for them as opposed to stealing them.  Just because Ben Francisco doesn't get caught doesn't mean you won't and besides, we round down to the quarter every time!

Mutsu - Placido Polanco, IF - Placido Polanco might have the largest head in the history of Major League baseball!  Look at the size of that gourd!  It's like a watermelon on a toothpick!  But seriously, the former Phil came back to play everyday third base and didn't disappoint.  Feel better, P-squared.  By the way, the largest Mutsu apples are the size of a toddler's cranium... nothing grows to the size of Polanco's noggin.  I swear pop-outs get stuck in its orbit.

Bosc Pears - Jimmy Rollins, SS - The former NL MVP missed a lot of time to injury and probably isn't 100% yet but is one of the most important players on which the Phillies rely.  He provides gold glove caliber defense up the middle, gets on base and sets the table for the big eaters in the lineup, all while providing a lot of the inspiration in the clubhouse.  Despite his sweet, smooth athleticism, he plays with a lot of grit.  Similarly, despite their gritty texture, the Bosc Pears are the sweetest fruit at Three Springs... its the only pear we have this time of year.  Here's hopin' Jimmy & Chase turn a "pear" every chance they get this postseason!  (just a reminder that cheesy goes with pears just as well as with apples)

see also:

2009 Phillies Lineup

2008 Phillies Lineup (revived soon)


2010 Orioles Lineup

Also, most of you know about Brad and Lindsay Lidge's Campaign with the Food Trust for Healthy Eating but if you didn't, here's some info:


Posted 10/7/2010 3:09pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit Farm

go o's!


In 2007, after several weeks of updating our farmers market customers with descriptions of apple varieties, I was struck with a nasty bout of writers block.  I had to come up with a new way to describe these apples - a way my customers could appreciate.  It was our first year of markets - all of them in Philadelphia where the hometown Phillies had just won the NL East after a legendary choke job by the Mets.  With Phillies Phever in full swing, I described the apples by comparing them to Phillies players.  It was a big hit (so to speak)!  The Phils fought admirably in the playoffs before falling to the Rockies that season.  However, emboldened by my 2008 Phillies Apple Lineup, the Fightin's went on to win the World Series.  They made a return trip last year after another Apple Lineup.  You'll recall how well Chase Utley played in October last year - no doubt miffed he wasn't included that season's lineup.

I've had a lot of fun with this over the years.  Fast forward to this season, and the last few months of the Orioles season were more fun to watch than any in years!  Buck Showalter got the team turned around and playing "The Oriole Way".  So in homage to the revived Baltimore Orioles AND since it's brought so much luck to Philadelphia's Phillies, I give you the inaugural Baltimore Orioles Apple Lineup.

Honeycrisp - Buck Showalter, "skipper" - Our tree fruit ripened early this year, thanks to a warm spring and elevated soil temperatures brought on by a long snow pack.  The Orioles, however, ripened late - thanks to the guidance of skipper Buck Showalter!  Sure, there were key guys who got healthy when he showed up, but you can't say that for the starting pitchers who were, all the sudden, going 7 innings strong after he took over.  Likewise, the only reason a lot of people show up for farmers markets in cold weather are crispy, sweet, tangy, Honeycrisp apples.

Jonagold - Luke Scott, DH/OF - Luke Scott was the MVP of the club this year and carried them single-handedly at times with an incredibly hot bat.  Fortunately for all O's fans, the streaky slumps he's known for were fewer and farther between this year.  Good thing Jonagolds aren't inconsistent!  They have a flavor that ranks with Honeycrisp and a bold, syrupy flesh.

Gala - Brian Roberts, 2B - I'm sure Brian would rather forget this year, one marred by injuries and rehab.  That being said, when he returned, he largely looked like the same player we've become accustomed to... a short leadoff hitter with speed who makes things happen on offense.  You won't be offended by the small, sweet morsels in the Gala crates at market.  They too are going fast!

Fuji - Nick Markakis, RF - One of the best defensive RF in the game, Nick had a steady year at the dish despite his power numbers suffering a bit.  We're glad his contract was extended so we can enjoy above average play in right for years to come.  Similarly, Fuji are not only sweet and crunchy for snacks and salads, they're known as GREAT keepers - lasting for months in refrigeration!

- Adam Jones, CF - It was another up and down year for Adam Jones who showed flashes of brilliance at the plate yet is still not quite putting it altogether.  He's a little up and a little down, but he's growing!  Nittany are a little sweet and a little tart.  They're done growing... that's why we picked them!

Red Delicious
- Matt Weiters, C - Weiters looks really good in the batting cage.  We've been told for years now about how he's going to be a feared, middle of the lineup bat.  So far, we've been a little disappointed.  Red Delicious have always been a good-looking apple.  Some people have told us that they're really good... there's still plenty of time for Matt to make a real 'Honeycrisp' oughtta himself, no need to go tart on him yet, O's fans.

Golden Delicious - Cesar Izturis, SS - Cesar is an under-appreciated member of the O's because he doesn't bring much flair.  His offensive game is very average and he isn't a "web gem" highlight reel defensive star.  What's underappreciated is he makes all the plays he should.  All the best teams are built around strong defense up the middle... well, except maybe the Yankees (Jeter isn't 26 any more).  Golden Delicious apples are also under-appreciated and dismissed as mushy.  They don't make many "favorite apple" lists, but they are sweet, they are tangy, they have great texture and they've got a syrupy, winey quality when they are fresh!

Granny Smith
- Jake Arrietta, SP - Jake has a great fastball and above average breaking stuff, but he's still a little green.  Granny Smith have great texture and are above average for baking stuff... and they are very very green.

- Brian Matusz, SP - Just a perfect example of the impact of Buck Showalter.  All the sudden, the young lefty was pitching with confidence late into ballgames.  Just what we like to see!  In our Empire, we like to see a bi-colored skin with pretty white flesh when you bite in - I mean REALLY white!  The flavor is a little more sweet than tart.  If they call the Yankees The Evil Empire, I want to be sure to point out that all these apples have in common with the #*&$ Yankees is the state of origin.

Ida Red
- Jeremy Guthrie, SP - Jeremy ended the year with a good run of starts.  Had a few bumps along the way, but overall another very decent year for the righty who set a career mark for wins.  He can really bring the heat when he needs to.  Add heat to an Ida Red and you'll be remarkably surprised how well the apple maintains good texture and how the flavors brighten a little bit.

Rome Beauty - Felix Pie, OF - The ressurection project that is Felix Pie.  Depending on who you ask, it might be over - he might be a bona fide big leaguer!  He sure looked like one in longer stretches than ever before, and that's a terrific sign.  He always had all the physical ability in the world.  Oh wait, I should explain how Felix "Pie" is like this apple... are you really going to make me connect the dots for you?

Bosc Pears - Kevin Millwood, SP - It all went pear-shaped for Kevin Millwood in 2010.

- Ty Wigginton, IF - Ty made a cameo appearance in the 2010 All Star game, as the O's representative.  Actually, the way he was hitting back then, if that goofball manager of the Yanks wouldn't have pinch hit that piece of garbage Nick Swisher and let Ty hit, we might have won the thing... anyhow.  He lost his All Star form in the second half.  Cameo lose a little of their tartness in storage and are a teriffic eating apple fresh or in the spring!

Mutsu - Koji Uehara, CL - I don't know if he's clumsy or just has bad luck, but I'm glad this Japanese import got healthy in time to contribute because he really attacks hitters coming in out of the bullpen late in games.  Mutsu are another Japanese import - a late ripener with good tangy zing, attacks the palate!

Posted 9/29/2010 3:59pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs farmers market shopper and devoted cider enthusiast Erin writes:

"Hi, guys!  We are drinking your delicious cider and having an animated conversation about what IS the difference between apple cider and apple juice (and we wondered), what's your opinion on this great debate?"

The question is a great one - and timely, since we were able to roll out a very popular Fuji Apple Juice for our customers this past spring.  While the question was pretty clear (like the consistency of, say, apple juice), the answer is a little more murky and mysterious - a quality it shares with apple cider.  We're gonna chew on this simple difference and spend a little time on how each is made in the hopes of providing some delicious distinction between the two!

'07 Headhouse cider displayOn the surface, the two "apple-y" beverages are not very dissimilar.  Both are pasteurized and list as their ingredients only "the juice of apples".  As you can see, the difference between cider and juice is pretty minimal.  The main difference is the apples used.  For the purposes our discussion, I'll explain the difference in our cider and our juice.  Our juice, typical of many juices, is a one variety product.  We use only Fuji Apples in our juice.  They are very sweet and make a palatable juice on their own.  The Fuji apple juice is heated in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit so it can be shelf-stable bottled without the addition of any preservatives.  This also effectively kills whatever bacteria and impurities the product could have contained.  The resultant product is much lighter in color and consistency.  We like the sweetness of the juice because we know kids love sweet beverages and we figure parents can dig it if they can serve their children a sweet beverage that comes from a local, sustainably raised farm and contains no added sugars!  It's common for grocery store apple juices to be filtered to remove any hints and traces of apple sediment from the apple skins.  Though they might seem visually unappeeling... er unappealing (can't believe I almost went there), the majority of an apple's nutrition is found in the skin, thus we leave it right where it is.  Caveat Emptor: grocery store juices also commonly contain preservatives, sugar ("corn sugar" and otherwise), and apple juice concentrate - concentrate bottlers can import from Turkey, China, etc. without labeling as such.

Ned Flanders, cider enthusiastCider, on the other hand, is best enjoyed when many apple varieties are present.  As a matter of fact, the sheer variety of apple flavors (in addition to Jonathan and other semi-tart base apples) is the not-so-well kept secret to our cider's success.  It's cloudy, complex, tart and sweet, and contains all that valuable sediment.  Our cider is also UV pasteurized, or "cold" pasteurized.  This is vital to flavor preservation, in my opinion.  This specialized UV has been proven by Cornell University to be equally effective in removing harmful bacteria as heat pasteurization.  Not only is flavor preserved, but this product actively ferments, for all the homebrew/homewine enthusiasts out there which also means all the phytochemicals beneficial to the digestive system are also present!

So in summary, there's not a lot of difference between the two beverages.  However, when they're done right, you should be able to tell easily.  Juices are clearer in color and consistency - a lighter, monochromatic beverage.  Ciders are bold, complex, dark, and more rich in flavor.  By definition, they are nearly the same.  In execution, they are worlds apart!

Stay tuned to this blog for fun, informative videos on this topic - debuting in the coming weeks!


further "Ask A Grower" readings:



Posted 9/22/2010 2:43pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmAs many folks heard, President Barack Obama was a surprise visitor of the Reading Terminal Market this past Monday. As was also reported by a few outlets, the President purchased some apples to go along with his token cheesesteaks, apples some reported he undervalued.  We're here to set the record straight, commend the fine folks at Fairfood Farmstand for making the sale, and to confirm that these apples were our tasty, Gala apples!

So the quick synopsis of the story is that the President stopped by the Reading Terminal Market to grab a Carmen's cheesesteak to go (wiz with! good call, Prez).  It was while he was waiting for his steaks that the Fairfood Farmstand's own Federico Santoyo calls out to Pres. Obama, "How about getting something local and healthy for after your cheesesteak?"  As you can see, Fed is the star of this story, we did absolutely nothing.  Bold move on his part - it paid off!  President Obama ventured over to Fair Food and picked out four Gala apples (yes, our Gala apples) so that "Michelle would feel like I'm eating healthy", according to one CNN account.  As I kind of expected, the notion Obama didn't pay enough to buy the apples was falsely reported.  Federico was attempting to offer the Leader of the Free World something of an Executive discount - put in the same position, I don't think I'd feel right charging The President full rate either!  As seen on Fairfood's Facebook page:

evidence, people!Look at that pearl of investigative journalism!  So anyhow, cheers to the folks at the Fairfood Farmstand - they really do have a terrific operation there, it's your centrally located "Farmers Market Away From Farmers Market".  While I'm at it, a big "thank you" to all of the like-minded stands with a passion for local wares who carry our products in Philadelphia!  For the weekends you're out of town and find yourself needing that mid-week Fruit Fix, here's a partial list of where our delicious fruit can be found!

Public Domain Obama images are tough to find


edit:  proof I should leave this to the professionals, Bob's Market Report reports the Secret Security had recently cased Reading Terminal, indicating it was no "spur of the moment" stop.  Also, I can't believe I left out the President grabbing some Bassett's mint chocolate chip on the way out!  Another fine choice!

edit II: Poll: 1 in 5 Americans Believe Obama Is A Cactus

Posted 9/16/2010 4:00pm by Ben Wenk.

This year, I've decided to sell two kinds of Red Delicious at our farmers market and I thought it a good opportunity to talk apple variety "strains" and to talk about the fascinating history of the apple they called "Delicious" - its rise to fame and its fall from favor.  Most of the following is an oral history - I don't remember where I learned some of these details.  The minutiae comes from wikipedia because I'm a farmer, not a journalist and I'm not willing to reference everything.

Red Delicious - notice the trademark calyx!Up until the turn of the century, the Ben Davis apple was the national sensation - the most popular, most planted apple variety in the United States.  What I was told about the Delicious apple is slightly different than what I'm reading in this the little wikipedia refresher linked above, so I'll tell you what I was told and you can put as much faith in it as you'd like.  I was told there was contest for the best apple variety in the United States to coincide with the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.  The winner was this sweet mottled apple called "Hawkeye" brought from Iowa by an older fellow named Jesse Hiatt (thanks, wikipedia).  I was told Mr. Hiatt couldn't be located when the time came for him to claim his prize.  With their eyes on this great new variety, Stark Brothers Nursery (still around today) held their own contest, hoping this "Hawkeye" would be submitted again.  It was, they made Mr. Hiatt a great offer and began propogating and selling "Stark's Delicious" shortly after.  Again, this is the version I was told. Starks claims on their website to have been selling Stark's Red Delicious since 1893, so take my version for what its worth.

a dejected Red Delicious staring off into spaceThe name of the apple was never intended to be "Red Delicious", you see.  The name began merely as "Delicious" and has only more recently been called Red Delicious after the folks who discovered a "delicious" yellow fleshed apple growing wild in West Virginia decided to piggyback off of the success of "Delicious" by naming their fruit "Gold Delicious", necessitating the Starks variety and all future sports be called "Red Delicious" to avoid confusion.  The perfectly red, perfectly conical fruits with the accentuated calex "bumps" is the result of years of selective breeding.  You'll find the "Stark's Delicious" apple to be very tasty but not visually appealing fruit.  Orchardists and plant breeders have selected for and taken cuttings from naturally occuring mutants or "sports" (also "strains") of this variety as long as the original has been around.  Marketers discovered that consumers at that time were looking for dark colorand shape uniformity (which also packed better to ship).  So these qualities were most preferred by breeders as they sought (like everyone else) to find a better Red Delicious.  The rest of the story, you likely know already as a big apple fan, reading this blog.  Color and shape were chosen ahead of flavor in development of new apple varieties.  When customers proved that they would eat a mottled, bi-color apple if it tasted terrific (see 'Gala', 'Fuji', more recently 'Honeycrisp'), the Red Delicious have began a 'Ben Davis'-like slide down the fresh apple pecking order.  For now, we still have a few "Stark's Delicious" trees in the ground.  This is your chance to experience where this variety began before we remove these trees, never to be heard from again!


[update 9/10/14: We no longer grow "Hawkeye", for one.  For second, this piece in The Atlantic relates a more complete version of the history Red Delicious despite their incorrect assertion that it's the most widely grown apple in the US.  According to a recent report by US Apple, Gold Delicious is the most widely grown variety.  I got no beef with Golds - they're pretty stellar, actually]

Posted 9/9/2010 3:49pm by Ben Wenk.

Here's a quick run down on a some publicity we were fortunate to have received of late:

Food Alliance recognition is popping up here and there, including a mention in Food CEO magazine, and this YouTube clip with some spiffy shots of our beautiful orchards, a little dialogue from our friends Brian Synder of PASA and Joan Norman at One Straw Farm, plus some footage shot at our Kenilworth Farmers Market:


Gaining Style Points

Our customers are always the most stylish folks on their block, Philadelphia Style Magazine proves it, ranking our Heirloom Apples as no. 4 on their list of the top 10 fall eats!  Thanks, Philly Style!

Upset Alert!  Washington Gardner Tomato Challenge

It was a close match, but we were narrowly edged out for top honors in the Washington Gardner Magazine Tomato Taste Test, 2010.  In a survey of over 100 tomato maniacs at the Silver Spring Farmers Market August 28th, our very own Green Zebra tomatoes were edged out by the Lemon Boy tomatoes of our friends at Down to Earth Farm.  One measly vote was all that separated us from the honor.  Our 27 votes tied for third place with our other friends (and market neighbors) at Sligo Creek Farm whose Sungold tomatoes were also a big hit.  Oddly, my favorite variety, 'Cherokee Purple' didn't fair as well.  I would have voted for Spiral Path's tomatoes, but what do I know anyhow?  What a fun idea and thanks for the folks at Washington Gardner and the Montgomery County Master Gardners for organizing this event!