This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to tour and see all of the behind scenes of a local orchard and farming operation in Camden, Delaware. While here, Bobby Fifer gave us the run down of their operations, how technology has a played a huge role in production and how produce gets from field to store. It was really interesting to learn about how apples were packaged and shipped off. Bobby said that apples are hand harvested from the field and then brought to the packing warehouse where they are fed through piece of equipment that can sort around 10 apples per second, all based off of a picture that it takes. The apples are then fed to the assembly line where they are packaged into boxes that will be sent all up and down the East Coast. Curt Fifer then chimed in and shared with us some food for thought. With recent storm events, getting their products to the consumers has not only become extremely difficult due to the lack of refrigerated trucks available, but also very expensive – costs more than doubled just to ship a truck load to Florida. It was really interesting learning about about the processing and shipping side of their operations. Many things that Curt and Bobby discussed and shared were eye opening – a lot of crucial factors to their business are behind scenes that go unnoticed or thought about by the consumer. Fifer Orchards was truly an amazing operation.
Our recent trip to Fifer Orchards was very interesting. It was the first time that I’ve been behind the scenes at an orchard or farm of that size, and I thought it was an incredible operation. We drove out to a field which was growing kale and broccoli first, and learned about how they are grown; as well as challenge like disease,insects and the weather. I also learned about the purpose of raised beds when growing strawberries. The purpose of the raised beds is to keep the crop out of the water, and control the amount of irrigation they are getting. After seeing some of Fifer Orchards’ fields, we went and saw the apple orchard. They currently grow over 20 types of apples, and make many of their own products with those apples. They also ship the apples all over the east coast. Finally, we saw their packing area and cold storage. They have a machine that can separate good and bad apples, tomatoes, and peaches through a computer program. It was amazing to see what a large operation Fifer Orchards is and to learn about agriculture and business aspects of running a farm like that.
Posted on behalf of Bradley Evans
The field trip to Fifer Orchards was another really great experience. It was cool to see such a huge farm produce such a multitude of crops for profit. They really have a great system in place for crop rotation and experimentation. It is a family run enterprise which manages to use each others strengths to lead different departments of the business. The farm had been handed down through multiple generations with each trying to advance the production and technology. It was good to see their implementation of technology to make things easier for them in the harvesting and shipping areas. They kept track of what was selling and adjusted there planting schemes to maximize their earning potential on a yearly basis. They had an attitude of always evolving which was prevalent in their onsite country store and the development of festivals to draw their customer base into the farm. This is how you run a successful farm. They did have some concerns for the future and unfortunately they are the same concerns that most people we met on our field trips had. The concerns where in government regulation and standards that are always evolving and resulting in extra expenses to the business. There other concern was in the cost of energy. Something that I learned which was interesting was how heavily they relied on migrant workers to harvest their crops. They said Americans didn’t want to do the job.