Friday, October 28, 2011

Small town atmosphere found at Bishops’ Orchard

Lindsey Treffry | rawr

Symmetrical lines of green trees stretch to the horizon. The smell of rotting apples and pears on the orchard floor is potent and sweet. The birds are chirping against a light breeze, and in the distance, there is the slightest sound of apples churning in a press.
This is the scene of Bishops’ Orchard. The orchard started in 1978, when Stephen Bishop and his wife moved to Garfield, Wash., where Bishop had deep family roots. He had experience in citrus orchards from the Peace Corps and knew at some point in his life, he wanted to own an orchard.
Bishops’ is opperated solely by family members, except for the extra help hired during harvest time.
“We devote all of our summers to working the orchard,” Bishop said.
The orchard has a south-facing slope and 18 acres of land. This summer, the apples were off schedule, blooming on May 31 compared to early May.
“I’ve never seen that before in my life,” Bishop said.
Even without Red Delicious and Rome apples this year, the weather was cooperative for the entirety of the season. The best crops included Macintosh, the primary apple of the orchard, Spartan, Empire, Golden Delicious and Liberty apples.
Along with these apples, and other breeds, Bishops’ offers cider presses for fresh apple cider.
“When we started the orchard we didn’t expect the cider to be as popular as it has,” Bishop said. “Our original plan was to grow and sell apples, and we didn’t think (cider would) be a big thing. It’s become the tail that wags it on.”
In two cider sheds, apples are washed, added to the “hopper,” chopped into a mash and then pressed. The juices are drained into a bowl, which can be poured into a gallon for $5.
“The cider is delicious,” said Paige Reid, University of Idaho American studies major and Bishops’ Orchard customer. “It’s a really fun activity to do with a group of people.”
Reid said there is usually a wait for the cider presses, but said in the meantime, her and her group generally walk around and pick apples off the trees to eat.
During the off-season, all of the equipment gets put away. Around the end of December, Bishop and his brother plan on pruning. Bishop generally tends to one or two farming machines or, like last year, builds additional cider presses.
In the early spring, pruning begins and in the last couple years, the Bishop clan has planted new trees.
Most of the trees are originals from 1978, but some non-productive trees have been replaced. The newest additions include English cider apple trees.
All of the trees are insecticide free, although that wasn’t always the case. Shortly after insecticides were eliminated, Bishop said a new bird population increased, reducing the amount of insects too, except wasps. Pheromones are used as a weapon against moth populations, otherwise known as the classic worm in the apple. These pheromones are used in place of insecticides and are safer, but pricier.
“It’s nice to have a normal environment,” Bishop said. “But it’s expensive.”
Which may be the reason Bishop employs family members.
“On busy days it can get real hectic,” Bishop said.
Busy days don’t seem to affect the staff, though.
“People who are there have always been friendly, working and using cider presses,” Reid said. “It’s not like they’re hovering over you. You definitely have independence ... But there is someone to help you if you need it.”
Bishop said he encourages people to come because it’s a great outing, especially in the Pullman and Moscow area. He said their fruit is reasonably priced, too, at 40 cents per pound.
“It’s like you’re in the country in a small town …” Bishop said. “When you’re in the middle of the orchard you can look out into the fields.”
Bishop said he often takes walks with his wife around the orchard and encourages others to do so too. Depending on weather, Bishops’ Orchard will close either Oct. 30 or Nov. 6.
“It’s not a carnival or anything like that,” Bishop said. “There’s no hay ride, dog or pony show here. It’s just an orchard.”   

As seen in the Oct. 28 issue of rawr.

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