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Apple of His Eye

By Staff | Dec 12, 2008

After retiring five years ago from a thirty-year career as a machinist, Jacob Winter turned his full attention to enjoying life on his family farm: forty-eight acres hidden in the hills near Huntersville where the only sounds stirring the clear country air are the moos of grazing cattle, the chirping of birds, and the occasional rumble of a tractor. He has enjoyed making his eight-acre apple orchard his core occupation.

It’s been said that it’s hard to keep a good man down–but it might close to impossible to keep a good farmer down at harvest time. Jacob Winter can tell you that from personal experience.

As a result of the heart attack he suffered this autumn after picking only about a third of his projected 2800-bushel apple crop, Winter has had to restrain himself from doing the job he loves. Leaving the harvest to others has been a challenge for someone used to spending every daylight hour in the orchard when fruit is in season.

Family members living nearby were quick to pitch in with the picking and sorting of the ten varieties of apples. Winter credits farm life for teaching his now grown children the very work ethic they have put into action during his time of need.

“It’s been a good 20-plus years here,” he says as he fondly recalls raising his family on the property which has been in the family for over 100 years.

Although it might seem like an easy endeavor when compared with other forms of farming, raising apples involves much more than sitting back and watching nature do the work. The trees require vigilant attention even during the bitterly cold months. Over the years, Winter has experienced both frostbite and skin cancer from being exposed to nature’s nastier moods.

Rising transportation costs have caused many small scale orchards to keep sales close to home, and the Winters are no exception. Jacob Winters and his wife Kathryn sell a large fraction of their crop directly to customers from a climate-controlled storage shed just a few yards from their house.

“It’s been a good year as far as sales go,” Winter says, adding that business from the neighboring communities has increased this fall. He is pleased that many people have learned the benefits of buying locally grown produce: the consumer pays a lower price and receives a fresher, less-handled product.

Despite the challenges he has faced physically and the growing costs involved in farming, Winter is dedicated to continuing. He says that he looks forward to seeing his children and grandchildren take over the farm someday, but he is clearly not quite ready to call it quits.

“I’d like to plant some peach trees,” he says optimistically.

Winter’s Orchard is open 8 to 6 daily. From Pennsdale, follow Rabbittown Road for 5.2 miles. Turn left onto Lockard Road just before Webster’s Cemetery. After 1/10 mile, turn right onto Orchard Road, and follow the signs.