Sunday, June 29, 2014

Another tractor drive: touring an apple orchard

We knew there was a chance of rain ruining the drive.  When I got up, I checked and saw little risk of precipitation until around 3 P.M., at which time things got riskier.  Cliff decided to watch the TV weather-guessers, who said rain was coming right then.  Now that's quite a difference in forecasts, so Cliff called the club member who was in charge of this little ride and asked if it was still happening.  Yep, he said.  It was.  

So Cliff loaded the old Allis onto the trailer and we met up with the others at the city park in Dover (population:  very few).  There were fewer tractors on this drive than on any I've attended, but it was one of our better ones.  

This is Levi, the grandson of the local peach orchard owner, who rode on this Ferguson tractor with his grandpa.  

That's the trolley that most of the women usually ride on.  When I took this picture, the guys were making use of the seats while we waited for starting time.  There has to be a permit for these things, and a schedule, because we have a cop along keeping us safe, and he has to know exactly what comes next.  I assumed we paid for the escorts out of the club fund, but turns out it's free.  

Our main destination was Rasa Apple Orchard.  That's Norman Rasa, who was a wonderful tour guide.  That's my old apple-orchard boss Larry on the right.  These days he only has peach trees in his orchard, which is now managed by his son.  
We learned that the Rasa family established the orchard in 1922.  Of course it was much smaller then.  It's a family operation, with the brothers, their wives, and their children who are old enough all having a part in it.  I asked him if they all get along, and he said yes.  Then he explained how the work load is divided up among them.  There is also a cattle operation on the property, and one brother takes care of that, along with the haying and other work that goes with it. 

 Norman's main job is to oversee the orchard.  They have six year-around employees, but they hire around forty people to work in the shed during harvest as well as the migrants who pick the apples.

Times have changed since I worked for Larry.  The government has a whole bible of rules to follow, and there are federal inspectors visiting, even during the off season, checking everything out.  The machinery that sorts the apples is high-tech, and Norman said the replacement value of all the computer-run equipment would be at least a million dollars.  

Everybody is looking at the book of regulations.  That's our police escort on the right.  

Those small trees were planted last year and already have apples.  The apple trees I bought take five to seven years to bear fruit, but these have a special root stock that lets them begin bearing fruit early.  Because of this, all the trees have to be staked, or the weight of the fruit would pull the roots out of the ground and down would go the tree.  

Norman said that so far, this is the best apple year they've had in a long time.  When I made the comment, "... if it doesn't hail", he gave me a look that seemed to say, "Shut your filthy mouth."  They expect the harvest to begin in mid-August, which is usual.

  Large parts of the orchard are surrounded by electric fence, since deer were doing a lot of damage.  

We could see for miles and miles in all directions, at this point.  If you look at the farthest tree line, you can see a glimpse of the Missouri River.  Not the two bodies of water in the foreground, but way back there. almost to the skyline.

I always buy my apples at the Rasa Orchard retail stand.  You can travel a few miles farther east on 24 highway to what seems to be a more popular place, but the apples are never the quality I get at Rasa, and they are higher-priced.  Once in awhile I go to Waverly, just to see if anything has changed.  Nope: Still less quality for more money.  Only about five percent of the Rasa apples are sold through the retail stand.  The other ninety-five percent are shipped to Walmart, Kroger, and HEB.  Their juice apples go to Louisburg Cider Mill in Kansas. 

This was probably the best tractor drive I've been on, mostly because we did something besides just ride around on back roads at twelve miles per hour.  It's a shame there was such a low turnout. 


Hollie said...

This looks like something I would have enjoyed as well!! I look forward to going to the apple orchards in Ellijay every fall!!

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I do love apples and would have enjoyed that tour too. Glad you had a good day!

Cindi said...

Oh what fun, I wish I could have gone...thanks for sharing

Back Porch Writer said...

Enjoyed your entry! Had to laugh about your saying "if it doesn't hail"! Sounds like something I would say and I can imagine his expression!

Margaret said...

It looks like an interesting ride because there is lots to see and do. For a state that specializes in apple production, our store apples are lousy. They must ship all our good ones out.


WOW, two activities for the price of one. The little boy on the tractor was cute. The tractor pull looks like fun. That apple orchard tour was great, though. High tech has invaded most businesses today in one way or another. You just hope their machinery stays operating to turn out those mouthwatering apples. YUM.