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News and blog

Keep up to date with the latest news on the farm and at your market!
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 5/12/2010 3:11pm by Ben Wenk.

Those of you who might have taken our customer survey are already well aware that we are on the ball trying to specialize in the things that all of you who are reading this blog would want us to grow!  Having had some discussions with customers last year about a few new crops I was considering, I'd put the orders in to plant these this year.

the schnozberries taste like schnozberriesThe story behind acquiring these plants, while not epic, was still a memorable one... for all the wrong reasons.  Brian and I had taken fired up our newly acquired box truck early in the morning of April 27th, setting a course for the secret location of these super secret plants.  For entertainment purposes, we'll refer to these plants as "Schnozberry bushes".

So, there we were cruising down I-81 South for to gather our blessed Schnozberry bushes when "thunk, boom, ^%$*", our beloved box truck staggered to a crawl in a puff of blue smoke.  Multiple attempts to revive our vehicle were unsuccessful, leading us limping defeated to the AAMCO Transmissions of Harrisonburg, VA.  Without belaboring the point too much, these people were as prepared to diagnose a box truck problem as they were a Saturn V rocket. 

The hours crept slowly by and we got no answers or progress on the problem.  Finally, convinced that these folks had no concern for how long Brian and I might be stranded, Dave decided to make a dash to retrieve us and, should we get lucky, the Schnozberry bushes. 

schnozberries back in PA, no worse for wearMy father arrived in record time and picked up the two of us, leaving the incapable crew of AAMCO what little was left of the day to put their heads together and see if they could find the sparkplugs (I'm probably not exaggerating).  Our Schnozberry bush purveyors were open until 7pm and if we hustled, we could still retrieve the goods and (possibly, depending on their size) bring them home in his pickup truck.

It was then that fortune finally smiled on our stalwart band.  We winded our way through the Blue Ridge down to the secret location at which our Schnozberry bushes were kept - arriving with 10 minutes to spare.  We loaded them quickly and were soon backtracking through the mountains Northward.  Schnozberries in tow, we took cause for celebration when finally we reached civilization.  Shamelessly, the three road-weary travelers split equally six 9 oz. Ribeye steaks and made it home before 11pm - all in the same day.

planting the schnozberriesWe got the Schnozberries in the ground the very next day, in addition to the crunchberries (we'll call 'em) that had arrived by mail from parts elsewhere.  We have a few pics of the exciting proceedings.  Twitter followers and Facebook fans had already been made aware of these exploits.  Really, a few "tweeps" probably know what these guys are!  Everyone else has until at least next year until the schnozberries and crunchberries are ripe!


Farmer Ben

gotta get the right depth!

pack soil firmly, but without compaction


small crunchberries

larger crunchberries

Posted 4/29/2010 9:48am by Ben Wenk.

"The Misnomer some call 'Offseason'"

Griff, blizzard '10We're frequently asked about what we do in the offseason.  In response to this, I've provided some quick little photo-rich quips about what happened this offseason, for example.  This is taken from our weekly email for those who had thoughts of signing up and didn't know what it might entail.

donut peach trees under 3 feet of snowAside from pruning all of our trees (that's all of them!) and moving snow, the offseason is our chance to fix equipment, do a little long term planning, and educate ourselves on the latest and greatest in fruit growing innovations.  Additionally, this year part of my offseason this year was to find between 2-3 farmers markets for us.  I found four... not like I planned, but we'll go with it!

This offseason, Dave, John, and I attended over a month's worth of our time at educational meetings between the three of us. This includes large ones like Great Lakes Fruit Expo and Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention (where I was asked to speak) and slightly smaller ones like PASA's Farming For the Future Conference and Future Harvest PA & MD Fruit Growers socializing at GLEXPOCASA.  We attended smaller county level meetings hosted by our local Extension educators.  We sit on committees to raise and spend money for fruit research and promotions in our state and at USDA-ARS.  One of my favorites is Fair Food's Local 2010 Philly Buyer/Grower, mom & HannahBuyer/Grower meeting at Reading Terminal Market which boasted not only many of my favorite Headhouse vendors and Piazza vendors, but Iron Chef Garces himself!

We also plan ahead, usally three years ahead, for crop rotation and planting back in with new tree fruit varieties.  This will be the topic of an upcoming blog entry (with video) very soon.  Essentially, we start planning now for varieties of fruit that will be in full production 10-12 years from now.  Sometimes we get it right, sometimes no.  We have some exciting new tree fruit varieties that should mature in the next 3-5 years - stuff planted with you folks in mind, and I wanted to get you all the skinny on how these fruit came to be.

And maybe after that, I'll reveal the identity of these awesome "mystery fruit" that we planted yesterday!  Loyal twitter followers might remember me asking around about a few of these mystery fruit back in the wintertime.

So, from educational and committee meetings, advocacy
time and market searches, marketing and planning, right down to the cultivating and planting that is still going on - this has been your brief glimpse into the activities of Three Springs Fruit Farm after we leave markets for the year!

Posted 12/11/2009 1:50pm by Ben Wenk.

bad, cheap xmas logoHappy Holidays to all our customers, internet followers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers and the like!  Thanks for a great season.  Before we start getting geared up for another one, we wanted to wish all the best to you and your family and friends from everyone here and all of the Wenks. 


Farmer Ben


The Year in Blog! (in case you missed an educational nugget/silly entry along the way)


P.S. as always, on the farm updates on a semi-regular basis available on Twitter



Growing Greener (a blog series focusing on our sustainable ag practices)


Ask a Grower (submit a question, get a real grower's response!)


Video Blog!  Machine Harvested Tart Cherries

FAQ:  Choosing the Right Fresh Peaches

The Hows and Whys of Controlled Atmosphere Apple Storage (great pictoral history!)






Weekly updates, 2009 (reverse chronological order)

Posted 10/29/2009 5:01pm by Ben Wenk.

PhilsSo, it was brought to my attention that I neglected to include Chase Utley, hero of Game 1, in this year's Apple Lineup.  Now, I could sit here and try to come up with excuses or try to explain how this happened but I won't.  It's unacceptable.  Heck, even the New York press has gone out of its way to honor the guy.  To try to make up for my error, I'm going to go to the heartfelt, albeit completely unoriginal, lengths of writing him a creepy love letter:

Dear Chase,

I feel like I can call you Chase because... its your name.  Chase Utley, you're a guy who's really good at baseball.  You play baseball better than... well, everyone I know!  Awesome!  Someday, I would like to sell you some fruit.  I think that maybe you would like the fruit and in eating my fruit, nourish yourself to hit the ball even further and harder than you already do.  You run fast, too.  Maybe after you're done hitting mammoth home runs and running fast, we could get together and talk about fruit... and baseball, ya know - whatever.  Because that's what friends do... when one's an awesome and fast baseball player with cool hair and the other friend grows fruit.  I hope you write me back because you are like the Honeycrisp... of my heart.

Go Phils!

From Our Farm, to Your Home,

Farmer Ben


Posted 10/22/2009 4:40pm by Ben Wenk.

PhilliesFirst off in the interest of full disclosure, the Wenk family are all lifelong Orioles fans... since birth!  However, in the three years we've been doing farmers markets in Philadelphia, the hometown Phillies have won three consecutive NL East crowns, topping it off with a World Series Championship just last year.  So you're probably thinking, They aren't seriously taking credit for the Phillies success are they?  Of course we're not (we're not going to turn any down if you're willing to go there)...  But!  The previous two years we've toasted the Phillies by describing our apple varieties by the Phillies player they most resemble or which player comes to mind... or vice versa.  This year will be no different.  Since the Orioles have long punted on the idea of playing postseason baseball, we're pulling for the next nearest team to vanguish all other playoff opponents, most especially, the New York Yankees (who we hate passionately).  So without further adieu, a tradition unlike any other pairing fruit and baseball, a goofy, cheesy, zaney look at your 2009 NLCS Champion Phillies... in apple varieties!


Honeycrisp - Ryan Howard, 1B - Your 2009 NLCS MVP is as vital to the Phils as the Honeycrisp are to our apple stand.  They are our MVP and, like Ryan, are large in stature and come up clutch when you need an apple (or a timely three run HR in his case).

Gala - Shane Victorino, CF - Danke, Shane!  What else do you want the guy to do?  Hit for average?  Hit for power?  A little speed on the basepaths?  Chase down balls in the gap?  Just a great all around, reliable player much like Gala are a great go-to eating apple

Jonagold - Jayson Werth, RF - Huge season for Jayson, huge season for Jonagold.  This was Werth's best year statiscally and this is the best crop of Jonagold we've had.  They are large (see Werth, Jayson) and are a huge part of our apple cornucopia.

Fuji - Cliff Lee, SP - Fuji came to us from Japan.  Cliff came to us from the Cleveland Indians.  On arrival, we marvelled at the sweetness of both!  What's more, whether you need eight shutout innings or crispness at room temperature for months after harvest, both Fuji and Cliff Lee can go the distance!

Staymen/Winesap - Carlos Ruiz, C - CHOOCH!  There's something about a firm, tart apple that says "catcher" to me.  Plus, Ruiz has set records for run production from the eighth spot in the order.  Staymen also ripen late... eh?  Works for me!

- Joe Blanton, P - Coming in at 250lbs in your media guide, Blanton is a pretty big guy serving a pretty big role in your playoff rotation.  Between Pedro, A.J., and Blanton, skipper Charlie Manual can hand pick which starter is best suited for which matchup.  These Cortland are also huge and versitile.  Make them your starting salad apple or bring 'em out of the pen for a tasty homemade apple sauce!

Nittany - Pedro Feliz, 3B - It's easy to overlook Nittany, what with such delicious eating apples as Honeycrisp, Gala, Jonagold, and Fuji already lining the shelves.  However, Gold Glove caliber defense and a few timely hits are not to be overlooked.  Coming from Golden lineage (Golden Delicious, parent variety), Nittany, like Pedro Feliz, is not to be overlooked.  Very vital part of any successful fruit stand/Championship baseball team.

Mutsu - Jimmy Rollins, SS - "J Roll" comes up huge when you need him and is noted for his speed on the bases... and also a great baserunning in general, for that matter.  Mutsu comes off the tree huge every time!  They just don't produce small fruit!  And, due to their popularity, they're "going fast"!  Same thing, right?!

Golden Delicious - Pedro Martinez, SP - There's this apple I know that is a delicious eating apple.  It's been around a long time - been successful for many years yet, oddly, some people still take it for granted.  They underestimate it because other versions of this apple are old and mushy.  Guess the Dodgers won't make the same mistake with Pedro Martinez again, hmm?

Red Delicious - The Phanatic, mascot - Red Delicious are the same color as the Phillies uniforms.

Empire - Charlie Manual, "skipper" - Why is it geniuses from Bristol, CT think that anyone who talks with a southern accent is stupid, crotchedy or both.  Charlie has led the Phillies to back to back National League pennants which hasn't happened since '95-'96!  Wonder what these same folks would have to say if Charlie defeated their darlings in "The Evil Empire"?  (Empire apples, while discovered and researched in New York, do not possess the same evil qualities as the presumed AL champion New York Yankees)

Rome Beauty - Paul Bako, C - Only so good for a "snacko", but terrific apples with which to Bako.  (read:  Bake-o... I know it's pronounced differently, Paul is a former Oriole afterall!)

Cameo - Ben Francisco, OF - Usually coming off the bench to start a rally from the pitcher's spot in the lineup, Francisco's cameo appearances can help the Phils start one of their legendary late inning rallies.  When we need to rally in late apple season, the Cameo make an appearance to match Staymen as a dessert quality tart eating apple.

Bartlett Pears - Eric Bruntlett, IF - He swears up and down that these fruit are named after him, but I'm not buying it.  Remember that time he recorded an unassisted triple play?  That was pretty cool.

Bosc Pears
- Matt Stairs, OF/PH - In case of emergency, use Pears.

Three Springs Fruit Farm

Posted 10/3/2009 1:02pm by Ben Wenk.


Three Springs Fruit Farm is

Kosher Certified!

kosher certification


After months working with our processers, Kime's Cider Mill, we have fullfilled all of our kosher obligations and are now going to be Kosher (Pareve) certified for the following products:


  • Apple Sauce
  • Apple Butter
  • Pear Butter
  • Canned Peaches
  • Fuji Apple Juice
  • Ginger Apple Juice
  • Tart Cherry Juice


kime's cider millPlus a few more products we hope to debut in the springtime.  We are working with our cider presser, Bermudian Springs Cider Mill, to have our "Must Eat" Apple Cider achieve the same certification.  We're eager to move our current inventory because each labelled product on our stand will carry the kosher certified symbol from here on out!


Three Springs Fruit Farm

Posted 9/24/2009 1:34pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmA curious web follower writes:

Legend has it that (Granny) Smith threw out cores and peels from some Tasmanian crabapples she'd used to make a pie. Since she and her husband were orchardists who grew apples themselves, surely there were domestic apple remnants in the compost pile as well.

Would a crabapple seed and a domestic apple seed both have sprouted into seedlings, then cross-pollinated? Does cross-pollinating have any effect on either variety's fruit, i.e. flavor, color, texture? Does cross-pollinating ever result in new cultivars?

Certainly there was no grafting involved, as Smith's seedling is said to have sprung up on its own, "accidentally."

I'm just wondering how this could have happened, technically.


Well, it's true that the parentage of the apple variety ("cultivar" to use a little grower speak) is credited to a chance seedling originating in Maria Smith's backyard in Austrailia.  Before going on, the unlikelihood of this occurring cannot be understated - most seedling apple varieties are weird and unpalatable.  The fact that such an apple did arise from such unlikely circumstances is truly remarkable.  With that out of the way, let's wade through some somewhat fantastic exaggeration and figure out how varieties come from seed.


First things first, one cannot get a 'Granny Smith' tree from a 'Granny Smith' seed... or you're almost as likely to get that variety as any other.  You would need to take a cutting of budwood from a 'Granny Smith' tree, as explained in "Ask a Grower, vol I".  New varieties are mostly commonly derived from chance mutations ("tree sports" or "limb sports") or clever plant breeders, just to underscore the unlikelihood of valuable varieties coming from seed.


little appleWhen an apple tree blooms, that blossom needs the pollen of at least one other compatible apple variety to fertilize the bloom and make a fruit.  If you're planning an apple orchard, you must plan accordingly since apples are not self-fruitful.  All of the different kinds of pollen on that bloom are combined inside the seeds when that fruit is made.  How that pollen "jives" at fruit formation and what the resultant apple cultivar that seed might produce is a big crapshoot. 


So if Granny Smith pitched Tazmanian apple cores into her Australian compost heap, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the apple we all enjoy today.  The different varieties in the culls (to use another grower turn) is going to have little to do with tree that sprouts from the pile, aside from the seed had to have come from one of them. 


So it's not rare that new apple varieties should come from seeds, though growing apple trees from seeds is often tricky.  What is rare that an apple variety derived from a wild seed source be worth a darn, and 'Granny Smith' is!



Further "Ask a Grower" reading:



Posted 9/17/2009 4:45pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmFrom time to time, we recieve mail on our website with some questions about one thing or another.  It often takes me a while to get to them, but I do try to respond to each one whenever I find a moment here or there.  I recently got a real stumper, inspiring me to share it with everyone.  The emailer asks:

A neighbor had an old apple tree that the wind blew down. It had good, fall- bearing, sour apples. I took a sprout from around the base and planted. That was probably five/six years ago. The tree is about 20 feet tall, leafs out nicely every year but has never bloomed. What is the problem? Thank you..


This is a case of close but no cigar.  Let me explain.


Each apple tree grown at a commerical nursery is comprised of two crucial parts, the rootstock and scion.  The rootstock controls a number of things including the size the tree will be at maturity, susceptibility to diseases and a number of other things.  The scion is what makes a tree the desired variety.  In other words, a Gala tree is made of a rootstock that could be used to grow any other compatible variety and a scion, "cutting", of Gala.  These two parts are grafted together and the tree grows up to be the desired variety.


Old trees used rootstocks that, in addition to not controlling tree height, produced a lot of "suckers" as we call them.  A "sucker", as it's called in the fruit business, is a vegetative growth that takes energy away from the fruit producing part of the tree.  They are also called "rootsuckers" or "watersprouts".  They are always the first thing to go when dormant pruning an apple tree. 


When I read that this emailer had a large tree that didn't bloom and that the cutting was taken from the "base", it stands to reason that this cutting was part of the rootstock part of the tree - probably one of many "suckers" under the tree's canopy.  As a result, the tree is very large but doesn't bloom.  Because suckers are 100% vegetative and blossoms (and the subsequent fruit) is propagative growth, we can deduce that this trend is likely to continue.  This emailer knew to propagate the tree by taking a cutting, he just took one at the wrong part of the tree.


Close, but no cigar.

ida red w/ limb spreaders


For further "Ask A Grower" reading:




Posted 9/17/2009 1:57pm by Ben Wenk.

I give you, Mr. Roy Orbison!

Three Springs Fruit Farm