Despite Earlier Hardships, Apple Farmers Celebrate This Year's Crop - TribPapers

Despite Earlier Hardships, Apple Farmers Celebrate This Year’s Crop

Apple farmers had a number of booths on Main Street in Hendersonville for the Apple Festival. Photo courtesy of Dasha Morgan.

Hendersonville – At long last, the apple farmers in the area are able to celebrate their crop. Mother Nature has been harsh on them over the last two years, with freezes and temperatures as low as 20° F. Last year was a difficult season, but farmers can rejoice this year because of a bumper crop.The 76th Apple Festival, held this weekend in Hendersonville, reflected this happy trend.

The Historic Courthouse is the setting for many musical events during the Apple Festival. Photo courtesy of Dasha Morgan.
The Historic Courthouse is the setting for many musical events during the Apple Festival. Photo courtesy of Dasha Morgan.

This year’s opening ceremony was held late Friday afternoon at the Historic Courthouse.This year’s Grand Marshal for the King Apple Parade, Jack Ruff, spoke. Ruff is retired from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, where he served for many years in the marketing department. This year’s Apple Ambassador, Payton Margaret Snider, a rising senior at West Henderson, also spoke at the opening ceremony. The Apple Ambassador represents the North Carolina Apple Festival and the North Carolina Apple Growers Association. The ambassador program selects the recipients of the Evelyn Lutz Hill Memorial Scholarships. A $2,000.00 college scholarship is awarded to the ambassador, and a $1,000.00 scholarship is awarded to the first runner up, Hayden Marie Thompson, at Hendersonville High School. United Community Bank Waggoner announced The 2022 Apple Grower of the Year: Rick Moss, who owns Moss Farms with his father Keith. Rick Moss joined his dad in 1982 as the 5th generation to be on the farm. He purchased 42 additional acres of land and planted more than 6,000 apple trees.

During the day on Friday and Saturday, Main Street in downtown Hendersonville, many local apple farmers set up their booths and were offering bags of freshly picked apples in all sizes—the Gala, Honey Crisp, Ginger Gold, Pink Lady, and many others. The variety of gourmet offerings was overwhelming—apple cider, apple muffins, apple pies, caramelized apples, apple fritters, apple butter, apple jam or preserves, slices of apples to dip into caramel, apple slushes—anything anyone could possibly want could be found. Some of the farmers who participated were Circle L Farms, Creasman Farms, Coston Farm, Justus Orchards, Lyda & Sons Farms, McConnell Farms, Ottanola Farm, Piney Mountain Orchards, Rhodes Farm, and Steppes, to mention a few.

The streets were packed with visitors. Many of the downtown businesses opened their parking lots for a minimal fee and were donating the proceeds to various non-profits, such as Meals on Wheels and East Girls Athletics. A multitude of activities for all ages abounded throughout the blocked off area. Children’s rides and inflatables were provided by Palmetto Amusements. The Wells Fargo parking lot was filled with a whirling merry-go-round, bungee jumping areas, slides, and face painting. It was bustling with activity. Handmade and handcrafted arts and crafts booths abounded up and down the street. You could find incredibly beautiful glass pieces, jewelry, metalwork, paintings, photography, original hand-tooled and machine-worked wood items, as well as scented candles, soaps, and skin care.

Throughout the weekend, musical groups played. In front of the Historic Courthouse, chairs were filled with those listening to some wonderful bluegrass and bands playing. The WNC Air Museum had an open house with airplanes of the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s on display. They allowed children to sit in some of the real airplanes. The Mineral and Lapidary Museum remained open during the festival, as did many restaurants and shops. Running and biking events took place at various locations. The Tour d’Apple cycling event, provided by Hunter Subaru, was able to take place on Monday, September 5th, despite the rain. The course provided four exciting, challenging routes through Western North Carolina’s apple orchards, waterfalls, and mountains to benefit the charitable projects of the Hendersonville Four Seasons Rotary Club. Cyclists chose to ride in 25, 45, 65, or 100-mile options. This was an untimed event–a ride, not a race. This year the Tour provided cyclists with a Mexican lunch, prepared by Taqueria Gonzalez Mexican Restaurant, 525 Kanuga Road, Hendersonville.

The King Apple Parade, held on Labor Day Monday, is considered the weekend’s highlight with every type of float imaginable parading. Sadly despite so much preparation by so many it had to be canceled due to the rain.

The Apple Crop in Henderson County

Henderson County leads the state in apple production and is 7th in the nation. According to the U.S. Apple Association, 2021, the top ten apple producing states are: Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Ohio, and Idaho. The county (of which Hendersonville is the county seat) grows more apples than any other county in the entire state of North Carolina. The cool nights and warm days, paired with great soil, make Hendersonville an ideal place for growing apples. They bloom every April, slowly grow all spring and summer long, and then from August through October; each variety ripens on a slightly different schedule.

Many of the Henderson county orchards are open to visitors throughout the fall season. Some are open for U-pick; others offer roadside stands; and many have bakeries and country stores on site, open for visitors. So, although the Apple Festival has just taken place to celebrate the banner crop of 2022, fall is the perfect time to visit these orchards in Henderson County. Many of the orchards have additional activities, such as a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, or rides for the children to enjoy. Grandad’s Apples even has a Cow Train and an Apple Cannon. It’s time to load up the family in the car for a drive to the country. All aboard.