Fifer Orchards are selling themselves short. Growing more crops than I can count on my hands and feet, Fifer’s farm operations include much more than just peach and apple trees. I was surprised to learn that sweet corn, tomatoes, and strawberries are Fifer’s biggest cash crops, while their sweet corn has been known to make its way west of the Mississippi.
I was fortunate enough to pick 4th generation farmer Bobby Fifer’s brain concerning his apple orchards. While the Honey Crisp variety of apple is currently Fifer’s best seller, they are in the process of taking out all of their Honey Crisp apple trees. Bobby explained that Honey Crisp is better adapted to cooler climates such as New York state and Minnesota; unfortunately these thin skinned delicious apples don’t thrive in Delaware’s increasingly warmer climate.
Another facet of the farm that interested me was the strawberry field. Delaware seems to have a very short growing season for strawberries, most folks are lucky to get a local strawberry after May. Fifer’s is certainly aware of this fact which is why they take advantage of black plastic and raised beds. I was shocked to learn the strawberry crop had already been planted and would be able to survive the winter months. The advantage of the early planting and the black plastic is that once spring brings forth warmer temperatures, the strawberry crop will already be well established. The black plastic helps to maximize the potential sunlight and warm the soil as quick and early as possible.