We hope you all had a great, relaxing winter season! We have been busy bees here at the farm and have a lot of things to share with you!
Some of you may wonder what happens at the orchards over the winter months when there’s no fruit to pick. There’s no shortage of thing to do – that’s for sure! From renovations to food safety classes to picking out new products to rewriting company manuals, you name it, it all happens over the wintertime.
This year we’ve had a lot of renovations done at Chiles Peach Orchard, including the finalization of our new solar panels, a brand new pavilion for events and to add a little extra shade in the summertime, and rebuilt the barn in the vegetable patch. During this down time we have also repainted the floors inside the market, laid new grass seed around the market, and are working on a bathroom spiff-up!
Lisa Henson, the manager of Chiles Peach Orchard, says,
“The wintertime is all about ‘beautification’ and learning.”
This year she, and other employees of the orchard attended gift shows in Atlanta to pick out new and exciting products for our market. With these products starting to roll in, we have also remodeled the inside look of the market for cleaner, brighter displays of our goods! In addition to gift shows, our managers also spend time traveling to other farms across the country with similar visions to ours.
“This is the greatest tool,” Carter Mountain manager Brian Ball explains, “By having the opportunity to see how other farms are run and how they operate, it really helps us improve our systems here and gives us tons of new ideas.”
Another manager at Chiles Peach Orchard, Stephanie, helps us with new and exciting products for the market as well! She spends the winter months hand making candles in our kitchen! Each season she comes up with new and exciting scents that are completely one of a kind!
Meetings with our marketing team and managers of both Carter Mountain and Chiles have resulted in a new training and a branding method which incorporates Chiles Family Farms logos and signage, to help us better connect our two sister orchards for the public. We hope that by using consistency throughout our farms, we will be able to better connect to YOU-the loyal customer! Be on the lookout for our new labels and stickers!
Staff at both orchards partook in Food Safety and CPR classes, and updated our employee handbooks and training manuals. In addition, we have also rewritten our school field trip curriculums to include our newest adventure: Solar Power!
As for what’s happening in the field, Farmer Henry has plenty to say this year.
“The biggest things are planning, pruning, and replanting,” He explains, “We have to do a lot of this in the winter to stay ahead in the springtime. We have to plan out our vegetable garden at Chiles Peach Orchard, go over last year’s notes, and decide which vegetables to keep replanting and which to scale back on in order to introduce new vegetables.”
This year Farmer Henry says there will be some new veggies coming! New varieties of sweet corn, new varieties of green beans, and new varieties of semi-hot peppers! He also says to be on the lookout for new varieties of flowers in our flower garden!
The pruning is done throughout all of our orchards, and this is done to help keep trees to size and also helps with thinning later on in the season. What happens to all the branches once they’re thinned?
“We put all of our clippings into a mulcher, then distribute that into the rows of trees,” Farmer Henry explains, “That way we create our own mulch that can then later return to the soil.”
As for replanting, “We make notes throughout the season of weak, dead, or dying trees so we can go ahead and get them out and make room for new healthy plants in the spring.” He says.
Going hand-in-hand with replanting, Farmer Henry explains that we need to make sure our soil is happy and healthy.
“We take soil samples from everywhere around the orchards and send it off to Virginia Tech to be tested for us. These tests tell us which nutrients our soil might be lacking, which then tells us what kinds of supplements we need to add, and exactly where to add them.” Pretty cool, right? Who knew!
Farmer Henry along with father Huff Chiles, and grandfather Henry Chiles, partake in various fruit and vegetable conferences across the United States. These conferences attract a wide range of industry leaders that come together and share equipment and knowledge with each other in order to better farming as a whole. These conferences are full of old friends and new, younger generation farmers to help keep our industry strong and thriving.
This year, Farmer Henry and mother Judy Chiles had the exciting opportunity to visit our nation’s Capital to lobby for better government practices when it comes to regulating agriculture and farmland. Together with other farmers, we hope to make a positive difference in our industry!
To wrap it all up, (like our strawberries currently are), we have had a very productive winter this year! Be on the lookout for new products, new logos, new varieties of veggies, fruits, and flowers, and most importantly: be on the lookout for an action-packed, fun-filled year with us here at Chiles Family Orchards!
We can’t wait to see you all soon!