This past Saturday, we had a great opportunity to tour a huge family-owned orchard named Fifer Orchard in Camden Wyoming, DE. With about 2,800 acres of farmland, you can only imagine how much time, energy, money, and manpower goes into running this orchard. Luckily for the Fifer family, it has been in the family for 4 generations. Bobby Fifer said he learned to farm at a very young age. He started us off with a tour to some of their fields to show us different irrigation systems like center pivot and drip irrigation, which is used for crops like strawberries with a raised bed. I thought it was interesting they had trial crops like cauliflower because there is a ready market for it.
They grow and watch the crop for about 3 years to see if it is worth it. Like cauliflower, kale was also a trial crop that needs to be hand-picked. It is very hard to find people that want to do labor that intensive, so Fifer Orchard participates in an awesome program called H2A that gives nonimmigrant foreigners, who are willing to work, the opportunity to work for them. They get a work visa and Fifer provides transportation and housing for them to work for a period of time hand-picking the crops. Without hand labor, Bobby said they would not be in business. A big challenge they see in the future is being able to use robotics for harvesting every crop instead of hand-picking, but is it possible to pick strawberries or pumpkins with a machine? With them being in business for so long and technology constantly improving I have no doubt they will continue to thrive for many more generations regardless of the constantly changing regulations and market.