Tell us about your growing philosophy.
We have been moving farther and farther away from the sources of our food and what it means to produce it. Our connection with the Earth has become strained, to say the least. Sadly, to most folks, the produce in the local market arrives by some form of arcane magic. I cannot hope to single handedly change the world, but I know I can make a difference, as a holistic grower, one apple at a time, one valuable customer at a time. I am a strong believer that our success, in any sustainable agricultural plan, starts and stops with a healthy soil environment. Without a healthy thriving living soil, we will be unable to feed ourselves, let alone our local communities and nations. Disregard the soil and we disregard ourselves. Kill the soil and we kill ourselves.
Tell us about your place on Earth.
Gopher Hill Apples is located in Grass Valley, Nevada County, California. Sunset Zone 8, USDA Zone 8b. We are on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range at an elevation of 2,650ft (808 meters). Our land is situated in, and surrounded by, a mixed oak and conifer forest. Grass Valley is blessed by a high annual rainfall of over 55 inches of rain per year - most of which falls between November and April. Our land is gently sloped and the soils at our place are a 5-6ft deep clay loam. Our exposures face both East and South. Gopher Hill Apples specializes in Heirloom Apples (and a sprinkling of pears) and we have over 30 different varieties, all on MM111, in the ground, being cared for and experimented with.
What draws you to growing fruit?
Growing fruit connects me with nature, grounds me and feeds my soul. I make connections with life every time I travel through my orchard. It is not uncommon for me to plan a few minutes for a task and instead find that hours have gone by as I move from tree to tree investigating. enhancing, wondering, nurturing, learning and thanking them all. The thought that, "greatness comes from greatness invested" enourages me to make the extra holistic efforts to insure my growing grounds thrive. I am a lover of plants and trees especially touch me deeply. I turned my focus to apples several years ago and have been smiling ever since. Growing amazing apples and exposing enthusiatic folks to that same fruit, sharing the story of the apples amazing history, the connection they can make for families to produce their own nutrient dense food and their special place in any holistic farm environment are all causes that make me proud to say . . . I am a holistic apple grower!
What holistic innovation keeps your trees rarin' to grow?
Yes and I enthusiastically raise a glass and toast each and every one of them.
What might you change if you could do one thing over again in your orchard?
I have an area I call "the Triangle" that I wish I had done more extensive soil preparation and soil rebuilding in the years prior to planting. The soil there was more compacted than I realized and when a neighbor showed me an old photo of how the previous property owners used that area to park heavy equipment . . . Well, I then knew why. It has been a valuable experience nonetheless . . . live & learn.
How do you go about marketing the good fruit?
I began selling our first fruit locally in the Fall of 2013. Though Fruit Stands and Farmers Markets are both solid venues, we are happy to be selling all of our best fruit currently by 'Referral Only' to past customers along with others who have been introduced to us by favorable word of mouth or from our own direct contact. For example, we most often receive an advanced order request for a given number of apples or volume (e.g. 1/2 bushel) of a given variety or a blend of varieties for a given purpose (applesauce, pies, etc.) with details on when they wish to pick them up. Since we sell all of our varieties for the same price, most of our clients are open to try new varieties and to also have suggestions for substitutions if their requested variety is not available. It is working out very well so far. As our trees grow larger and our harvests increase each year, I enjoy doing both apple and apple cider tastings with family and friends (and friends of friends too). Sharing the wonder, depth, variation and lore among the different apples causes most people to stop and become surprisingly thoughtful of the apples and all their tasty and diverse glory. I also enjoy extending my enthusiasm in the forms of advisory and hands on efforts in holistic orchard practices and awareness to folks excited about also growing their own amazing 'healthy as can be' fruit on their own properties.