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Reaping the Harvest

August 27, 2012

When I go to visit a farm it usually takes 1-2 hours to chat with the farmer and see their efforts to bring us good local food. Visiting Paul and Leanne Fuhrman took over 4 hours! Let me share with you the bounty that we can enjoy at the Wild Ramp. They also bring goods to farmers markets in Portsmouth, Ohio and Ashland, Kentucky.


Fuhrman Orchards actually has two parcels of land. The home farm where they live has about 90 acres in all: 16 acres of apples, 12 acres of peaches and nectarines and 15 acres of vegetable fields. The rest is hilly and wooded. The other parcel is about 151 acres with about a third of that currently planted with apples.

Paul’s parents purchased the land as a hobby farm when his dad’s professional baseball career was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Paul was born and raised there and remembers the expansion process: the packing house in 1964, a house in 1968, the greenhouses and more.  He went to Purdue to learn agricultural economics; his brother was learning the horticultural side. So was Leanne, who had grown up on a farm in northwestern Indiana They met at Purdue and married in 1990.

Family issues rearranged the plans. Leanne worked for 7 years at the OSU Piketon campus but the triplets’ birth in December 1998 added to the family demands of the other two children, brought her home. When Paul’s brother died he assumed all the responsibility for the farm as his dad also had passed away by then.

Other issues also have influenced the farm which has grown, shrunk, and grown again over the years, changing with outside influences. He used to supply local supermarkets; many are no longer around and those that are do not use local farmers directly; all arrangements have to be made with the regional office.

During the past five years the largest impact has been the weather. In 2007 there was a late freeze, ruining the peach and apple crops. In 2008 there was a drought. In 2009 a hailstorm. This season he lost peaches and nectarines to a late frost and the drought is reducing the crop potential. The retention ponds built on the farms are dropping below the level he would like and it will be a bit of a race to see if he harvests before the irrigation water runs out. He plans to build another retention pond and extend the drip lines to provide irrigation to areas not currently helped.

This is a larger farm than most of the Producers for the Wild Ramp. Besides the family, the Fuhrmans employ a number of workers for the packing house as well as the fields and orchards. They maintain a licensed residence for the workers to stay on the property, many of whom return each year. 

The major crop at Fuhrman Orchards is apples. In a good year they can expect to harvest 35,000 bushels. This year Paul estimates 18,000 because of the drought. Rows of various varieties are planted to facilitate cross pollination.

Pickers load up the bins which are then brought to the packing house.

The sorting process involves washing, removing the small apples or those with blemishes for the cider production, and then bagging. No wax is applied. Two immense rooms that are climate controlled for nitrogen provide long term storage without spoiling, permitting us to enjoy apples for months after picking.

In a few weeks the retail room at the packing house will have shelves lined with firsts and seconds for purchase.

The other production include flowers sold at the farmers’ markets
and lots of vegetables

I learned that the silk that comes out of the top of the corn is actually attached to each kernel!  I also learned that although corn is self-pollinating, the bees are active.

The pumpkin crop is doing well and school groups will start coming in a few weeks for farm tours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~LeAnne also showed me her asparagus patch 

and the coming sweet potato harvest.

Finally, Leanne took me to the goat barn so she could feed and water the animals there. She raises goats for meat as well as selling the kids to 4Hers and other people who want their own animals.

They own two Great Pyrenees dogs who guard the goats. Leanne commented that she hears the coyotes howling each night but she has only lost one kid in the seven years she has had her dogs.

Paul explained that in order to grow all these crops he uses careful application of chemical pesticides and herbicides. He uses the services at the state to determine what might be needed. For example, he said a year or so ago he sent a leaf that had a lot of dots on it to the state entomologist who examined the leaf under an electron microscope. She then reported he had an infestation on his apple leaves of a bad parasite but there were also “beneficials” there. He then applied a kind of spray that was not chemically based that would smother the eggs of the bad bugs and keep the good ones.  He is careful to make sure that all chemical applications are used well in advance to harvesting.

The issue with the Timothy Grass is evident throughout the vegetable fields. Paul said that clearing the pest is difficult because of the deep taproot. It became apparent to me that in a large farm setting like Fuhrman Orchard time management is a huge issue. In order to achieve production at a scale that permits full time farming, a decision to use chemical assistance is part of the equation.

Fuhrman Orchards

510 Hansgen Morgan RdWheelersburgOH.

740-776-6406 salesroom or 740-935-6406

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2012 3:07 pm

    What a fun day! Loved that goat face. 🙂

  2. August 27, 2012 8:48 pm

    Everything looks so fantastic, but them apples are making me drooooool!

  3. Laura permalink
    August 28, 2012 12:01 am

    Fantastic Blog! Really enjoyed reading about this farm! What kind of apples do they grow?

    • August 28, 2012 11:08 am

      About 12 different varieties. Right now the Jonathans are being picked…good for eating and cooking. He will be bringing some to the Wild Ramp Market this week……wish you could come and get some!!

  4. August 28, 2012 4:49 am

    All those crates stacked to the ceiling – that is a LOT of apples. What a great farm and family.

    • August 28, 2012 11:07 am

      Well, a bit of art, those are empties outside the storage cooler right now….but the climate controlled room has a few from the earliest trees and in time, will be piled to the ceiling.

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