We visited Bierwagen’s Farm in Grass Valley, CA, where they grow Arkansas Black Apples last October.
In this 5 minute video, you can meet 4th generation apple farmer Chris Bierwagen and learn about their farming practices. Check out their harvesting process.
Owned by fourth-generation farmer Chris Bierwagen, Bierwagen’s Farm has been growing apples, peaches, and pears in the Sierra foothills near Grass Valley, California for 102 years. The family farm’s primary crop is the Arkansas Black apple, a heritage fruit that has been bred for many generations. This resilient apple is part of the winter category, which means it can stay fresh all winter long in a basement or garage, without refrigeration. They’re also dual-purpose apples, so you can eat them as is, or use them as part of a recipe. When picked, the Arkansas Black is remarkably hard and stays crunchy for longer than most apples.
Bierwagen’s Farm also specializes in freestone peaches during the summer months, which are excellent for canning because the fruit falls easily from the pit when cut open. Compared to apple farming, Bierwagen has found that peaches are easier to cultivate organically. Apple worms are tenacious creatures, and after five years of trying to best them, the farm admitted that their current organic process was too difficult to implement. With modern advancements, Bierwagen remains hopeful that his farm will eventually convert to a fully organic method.
For now, the farm’s process for organic peaches relies on additional, legume-covered crops planted around the peach trees. Freestone fruits need a lot of nitrogen to fertilize, so Bierwagen plants cover crops during the fall months to help the peaches along. Not only do the legumes add nitrogen to the soil, but they also contribute to overall soil health, which the worms and other insects love. These crops work wonders for the farm’s ecosystem. Depending on the weather, picking season can start and end at completely different times every year, but fruit quality is Bierwagen’s biggest goal.
Looking to the future, Bierwagen hopes that more farms will forge a deep connection with the land. Taking care of the soil and raising crops without harmful methods will go a long way. Not only do organic fruits come from a sustainable source, but they taste much better than the genetically-modified produce you find in the supermarket. Slowly, people are rediscovering what good food is, and Bierwagen’s Farm couldn’t be more excited. Chris Bierwagen is proud to partner with the FruitGuys, working together to bring apple farming and fruit distribution into the new century.