It’s time to head for the hills to get your Georgia apples. Growers are picking and selling directly to those who visit their roadside markets.
“You can sample several and find out which ones you want for eating and the ones you should use for cooking pies, apple butter, applesauce, and the many other ways you can fit them into your diet,” said Tommy Irvin, state agriculture commissioner. “Apples are good to eat and they are good for you. That’s why I keep some in my office and in the car.”
Early customers were surprised to find the roadside markets open and selling locally grown apples. The freeze, then the drought did reduce the total output, said Tim Mercier, Chairman of the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Committee for Apples. “And they all were starting late because of the dry weather.”
The North Georgia growers are making “roadside markets first priority,” said Mercier, a Fannin County grower with a roadside market, “and less will be available for wholesale markets.”
Every few days more varieties are coming in and all varieties will be available by the middle of October, Mercier and Gilmer County Agent Michael Wheeler say.
That would be in time for the Ellijay Apple Festival the second and third weekends of October.
“October is our prime time,” Wheeler said.
Visitors to the farm and roadside markets will find apple cider, other apple products, more North Georgia produce and entertainment for the whole family. School groups already have been to some of the orchards that offer agriculture related activities in addition to the orchard tours.
Wheeler says that some of the orchards are using the marketing techniques of “agratainment” or “agri-tourism” to expand their customer base.
“One of the advantages of buying directly from the farm,” Wheeler said, “is that people are able to talk to the people who grew the apples.”
Also, Wheeler says that the North Georgia apple growers are “using cutting edge technology” to execute IPM (Integrated Pest Management) which results in the growers using fewer pesticides.
“Go ahead and make the first trip early,” Irvin said, “because you and your family will want to go back.”
For a complete list of Georgia orchards to contact for availability and other information, check the Web site: www.allaboutapples.com and www.gfb.org/ for the Georgia Farm Bureau Certified Farm Markets.