by Slow Food USA staffer Jenny Trotter
In October, I harvested my apple tree. How does an apartment-dwelling, backyard-less, city girl have an apple tree? Well, I “leased” it from a farm. For $50 I purchased an ‘Empire’ apple tree from Liberty View Farm and after the first good frost in October, when the apples were crisp, sweet and delicious, my husband and I drove north from New York City to the Hudson Valley to pick apples. Though our little tree was not much taller than us, it sure delivered. Farmer Billiam estimated there were over 150 pounds of apples on our tree.
With an apple-aholic husband and a growing interest in food preservation, this seemed like the perfect test—consuming/putting up a trees-worth of apples. The picking apples part was fun, easy work. But as the numerous bags of apples piled up around the tree I thought to myself, “Are we nuts?!” Well, all the food preservation turned out to be much easier than I thought. Between the pies, applesauce, apple butter, sweet chutney, spicy chutney, apple cider (yes, we used an old grape press to press some apples late one night in a Brooklyn woodshop) and frozen apples slices, we managed to consume or use them all. Of course we ate many raw (delicious!) and gave a number away to friends.
One thing that amazed me about the lease-an-apple-tree deal was the price. Billiam estimates that most of his trees produce 80 to 120 pounds of fruit, which translates to apples for about 50 cents per pound. This felt like a steal, especially since apples at my local farmers’ market cost four times as much. Is this really a good deal for the farmer? Billiam told us it’s about twice as much as what conventional apples go for, and because he is directly marketing to consumers who pick their own apples, he doesn’t have to do what all the conventional apple farmers do: picking, packing, unpacking, washing, packing, sorting and delivering, which takes away from the profit, too.