Philadelphia shoppers like Headhouse, Rittenhouse Square, and Passyunk (pronounced Pash-unk) know the “go-to” people for plums is Beechwood Orchards. But Melissa Allen of Beechwood would like everyone to know - they’ve got some pretty special peaches as well. Melissa has told her peach stories from Philly to Ashburn, VA to Baltimore, MD.
Beechwood Orchards is a 100-acre farm in the little town of Biglerville, PA. It resides in the gentle hills and rocky soil of Adams County. A century ago, Dave Garretson's grandfather, Robert Garretson, planted the first fruit trees in this Quaker-settled valley. Dave and his wife Tammy run the farm together with their daughter Melissa Allen and son Shawn Garretson. Dave says, “My family has been farming since 1540.” The view from their beautiful farmhouse includes an old station from the Underground Railroad. It's a fifth generation family farm but the youngest farmers, Dave’s grandchildren, are still a tad too young to drive the tractors.
Beechwood has more than 30 kinds of plums and a bingo card combination of Prunus persica(peach) variations: freestone, cling pit, white, yellow, fuzzy or not. How does Dave keep all those varieties straight? “We don't really, we plant what we like,” he says. What’s his favorite? “Whatever peach is picked perfectly ripe is my favorite peach.”
East Coasters have endured a rainy summer and this has made the tree fruit season an interesting one. Beechwood Orchard's corner of Adams County has been lucky though, the peaches came a bit early, and Melissa's heirloom tomatoes are coming in a tad late. “Fickle thing the weather, but you can't do anything about it,” says Melissa. The Pennsylvania humidity makes pest control challenging, but Beechwood Orchards doesn’t use pesticides on its crops. “We are low spray,” says Melissa. “We monitor [the crops] and use pheromone traps.” They are members of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture.
Five days a week at least one of the Garretsons travel to Philadelphia or Virginia to bring their produce to market. Back in the day there was a railroad, now it is the Interstate that leads back to the family and two Springer Spaniels, Apple Abby and Lily, waiting at home.