Life on the Farm – “Fall Harvest Poetry Slam”

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Our beautiful maple tree in full fall glory.

Hey

If you know me, you know I like words. I’ve always been fascinated by the power of words, and so we’re launching the first-ever, Maize Quest Fall Harvest Poetry Slam.

That’s right. Poetry. Why? Because expressing emotion, meaning through words is an art form to be encouraged. It is difficult to collect an experience in words. Sometimes the moment is so meaningful it seems to defy verbal expression.

I’ve been thinking a lot as I stand in the fields with people picking pumpkins, as I drive the tractor through orchards bursting forth with fruit. My feelings of gratitude for guests, for the farm, for the opportunity to do what I love and share it all are overwhelming.

So here it is, a poem about Fall. If you want to hear it performed, [CLICK HERE]

“Never to be missed.” – by Farmer Hugh

Crisp.

Both wind and fruit,

Crisp crunch of leaves under foot.

Bursting colors of leaves, ripe fruit on trees,

Winter’s cold hastens hibernation to the root.

Cozy.

Sweaters, scarves and long pants calling,

Wrapping form whilst leaves are falling,

Snuggling hugs warm heart as cheeks turn rosy.

Flavors.

Bursting crunchy apples, juicy bites,

Hot sweet cider Harvest’s rite,

Flashlights flitter through stalks at night.

Pumpkins orange, green and white,

Turn into pies in ovens piping,

Frost clings to windows icing.

S’more and meat over campfire savor,

All treats, no tricks, on this farm favor,

A Harvest full of nature’s flavors,

Never to be missed.

Click the watch the video of the poem performance.

Life on the Farm – “The End of Authoritarian Farmers.”

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Life on the Farm – “The End of Authoritarian Farmers.”

 

For almost 20 years, I have been a dictator. Now, I’d style myself a “Benevolent” Dictator, but authoritarianism was still the rule of the day. Due to the paradox of business growth, the rise of the millennials and the aging of my daughter, my authoritarian days are over. The promise and trouble of the top-down management style handed down from generation to farming generation has met its match in this modern day of agriculture, and I’ll share why.

I came by it honestly. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about – Dad rules, and he makes the rules, because he is ultimately responsible for the family’s well-being. He puts food on the table. He disciplines. He is the head of the family.

Notions such as this might seem quaint in our ever-opening society, but back in the mid-seventies, when I was growing up, this was the norm. My grandmother and grandparents all were depression era people. This was even more entrenched in their generation and stories of family lore were of heroic family men sacrificing for the farm and family. Those men were revered for it.

I came by this honestly.

The life transition came slowly. I married a strong, beautiful woman, who “wasn’t about to take my last name, thank you very much.” I had to learn to work beside my Dad (old school) without the two of us killing each other in a desperate battle for control.

I learned as our business grew that I needed other people, brilliant people, to help design mazes, cut mazes, organize ordering, proof materials, help at the Fun Park – terrifyingly, I was no longer able to be in complete control of every moving part of the farm and business.

It was at a board meeting of Farmers Inspired, a national organization of farmers who do what we do at Maple Lawn Farms, that I first learned an African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

What a profound statement. We, I, You don’t have to go it alone, running as fast as we can. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. What a joy to have the pressure of being alone, doing it alone lifted off our shoulders. What if we could “do it together”?

Back to the farm. I frankly couldn’t do this alone. Think about it – Dad manages production. Matt manages row crops AND works with me on the wine. Michelle books the groups and organizes the ordering for the farms we help. Janelle does the books and the schedules. Betsy does payroll and farm invoicing. Dee manages the market. Allen helps you in the orchard. Frank fixes everything. Jenny pours wine and leads at the Fun Park. Plus, over 65 part-time staff deliver the fruit and the experiences you know and love on the farm.

Authoritarianism is dead. The days of a “boss” screaming insults at a “worker” are over. Everyone on the farm can go work anywhere else, heck, I’m a terrible manager if my people can’t be employed somewhere else!

Authoritarianism dead and I’ve noticed a few reasons why it’s not coming back.

1. Things are better with more eyes. I know I’m pretty good at making, say a brochure. However, when Audra does the graphic design, Michelle proofs for details and I write the exciting copy – the brochure becomes great.

2. More taste buds. I, now that we’ve done it, can make wine. However, when Matt and I discuss, plan, check and take notes, then run our ideas by our buddy Carl, winemaker at Allegro Vineyards, then have some of the women as additional taste-testers, we make tasty wine AND can replicate it on batch two.

3. Helping hands. I our process, I’m ultimately responsible for every guest experience, but I can’t possibly connect with every guest, every time they visit. We have a system of returning staff helping new staff get up to speed, train while shadowing and supporting each other as new staffers learn the ropes. Its a system of more helping hands, more teachers sharing knowledge.

My daughter just turned 14. She is a wonderful, caring, beautiful kid who is outgrowing her “Daddy” vertically and in maturity. I confess to not being ready to give up my little girl. While she was a child, authoritarian rules were for her education and safety. Now, as the bible says, “children are like arrows in your quiver”, meaning they are meant to be honed, then careful strung, aimed and released to fly true and free into the world. Luckily, I don’t have to let go just yet, but I assure you that my authoritarian days are over.

The myth of American Business and the American Dream. The myth is that a lone American hauls him or herself up by the bootstraps, bold goes alone to achieve great things. That’s just totally false.

The real American Dream is that a brave individual can believe so fervently in a positive vision of the future, that a group of like-minded people will choose willingly to join the cause. Together they will overcome the challenges and plot a course to success.

I no longer wish to be a Benevolent Dictator. I want to be a farmer, a business owner, people want to partner with for mutual benefit. I don’t want to bear the load alone, but share the success with the team as we go.

Maybe it’s my age, but I no longer want to go “fast and alone”, but, instead, I want to go far and go together.

Come meet the farm team, the winery team and the Fun Park team. You are going to be amazed at the quality group of people who’ve come together at our one little farm in Pennsylvania.

See you soon on the farm,

Farmer Hugh

Life on the Farm – “Farming finally makes sense.”

 

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When I was a kid, I wanted to design airplanes. I had posters of the SR-71 Blackbird supersonic spy plane and the B1 bomber (back when it was new). I just lived for the thought of designing something so big and so important.

Doors and windows. You’ve probably heard, generally from someone trying to console you after a defeat, “When God closes a door, he always opens a window.” In college, I got into the Ag Business program at Penn State, but I still secretly wanted to chase the dream of designing airplanes, so I took Engineering Calculus II.

That’s when the door slammed in my face. You see, I made it, got a B-, but the big realization was that I hated it. Not even the match so much as the future of this kind of work. I couldn’t see myself doing it for a lifetime. Airplanes were over.

At the end of college, I interviewed with my fellow Ag Business soon-to-be-grads. I interviewed for Farm Credit, got food poisoning at the interview banquet. SLAM. I interviewed with Continental Grain, got the job, but it was states away from my soon-to-be-wife. SLAM. Got a job selling insurance in my home county of York. Window OPEN.

Inside of 6 months, 3,000 cold-calls and bouts of jousting a large, insurance-minded bureaucracy the door was heading for my face again. I hated it. It was a job that sapped my will to live. Luckily, Maize Quest had just survived it’s first season (I ran it part time the first season) and I jumped for the opening window.

Maize Quest operates, then and now, as its own business, but I was so focused on it, we didn’t tie the experience to the farm like we should have that first year. Slowly, we integrated the experience to include the corn maze, fun park, apple picking, farm market and bakery as it is today.

Along the way, we built an Wireless Internet Service provider that shot high-speed internet service from our grain bins to local homes. It worked, but was a tremendous distraction for me. I’d work all day at the farm, then go climb someones roof to install an antenna or troubleshoot a transmission tower. It was exhausting and it didn’t make sense. So finally, to my great relief, we sold that business.

When everything makes sense. You might feel like I have over the years, that pull, a slight tug, at the back of your mind that for some reason, things don’t make sense. I believe this is in-congruence; when things don’t make sense together.

Bringing congruence to this farm. The reason things are finally in congruence, meaning they fit together, is our refocusing on the mission and vision of our farm.

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Hugh in high school. Not very knowledgeable about the future is he?

It goes something like this:

  • We are commercial farmers growing an abundance of crops.
  • That works because we can have our u-pick guests pick the very best and ship the rest.
  • Guests who pick, enjoy our farm products, so we staff and operate the farm market.
  • The farm market allows us to retail products, while keep staff employed between grading fruit for wholesale.
  • The winery makes sense, because over-ripe fruit is the juiciest and tastiest, but cannot be sold to wholesale or retail customers.
  • The Winery attracts more retail guests to enjoy all our retail and u-pick opportunities.
  • Maize Quest Corn Maze & Fun Park works because we know how to grow corn on a commercial level, so tending the cornfield it is straightforward.
  • Maize Quest brings more people who love the outdoors to the farm, who likely will enjoy u-pick fruit as well.
  • Maize Quest expands the time we can entertain guests to give them a longer experience on the farm, making the drive worth taking.

The Virtuous Cycle. Each part of our farm and business works together to build and support the other parts of the business. They all make sense, and the all make sense together.

When you grow up. I always smile when grown-ups ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. I think back to my high school days and remember that their wasn’t a guidance counselor form with a box marked “Maze Master” for me to check.

It’s a long way from designing airplanes, but there is a sense of relief each day when you have a lot to do, but it all makes sense. When things make sense, when they are congruent, it seldom feels like ‘work’.

See you soon at the farm,

Farmer Hugh

 

Maple Lawn Farms – “Peach = Soccer Ball?”

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Aunt Sarah & the kids find GIANT peaches and a GIANT Fantasia almost as big as a #1 Soccer Skills Ball.
Farmer Hugh Eats Fruit
[CLICK for VIDEO] Farmer Hugh tries to eat 1 of everything last week. Can he do it?
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” Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” – W. H. Auden

The Rhythm of Life. We all use patterns, routines and habits to simplify our lives. If fact, our brains are pattern forming machines. It all started when the world was a more dangerous place. As humans, we had to survive.

The Brain uses the most fuel of any part of the body, so the brain became good at setting patterns to keep us from thinking all the time. Imagine if you had to think about breathing and making your heartbeat every second of your life! Now, breathing is blessedly a pattern that happens without our thinking about it.

Patterns you want. Many patterns and habits are things you would want. As adults, driving is like second nature, easy, but when something breaks the pattern, such as a braking vehicle ahead, our body jolts us to respond. Likewise, you have a rhythm at work, a pattern you follow each day. Kids have a rhythm at school, they’ll soon be in. You likely shop the same stores, drive the same routes, eat the same food and see the same people, day in and day out.

Patterns you don’t want. Unfortunately, patterns & habits can be harmful. Maybe you always roll your eyes at your teenage daughter. Maybe she always pulls out her phone every time the conversation lapses for more than 5 seconds. Maybe you always eat fast-food for lunch. Maybe you plop down on the coach the minute you get out of school and don’t move until 11PM with a crushing wave of cable sapping your will to live. (Just saying maybe…)

Robotic Life. Do you ever feel like your life is on autopilot? Like you are moving mindlessly through the days, busy as all get-out, but not going anywhere? You are trapped in your patterns; you are living a robotic life.

The Reassessment. This is a perfect time to break your patterns and escape to the farm. The fresh air and diversion from your normal sights, sounds and smells is a welcome relief to a brain stuck in the proverbial rut.

Nature has a way of connecting us to something bigger then the thrumming beat of daily life.

See you soon on the farm,

Farmer Hugh

Maple Lawn Farms – “The Summer Symphony”

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Life on the Farm – “The Summer Symphony”

Hey,

The Peach Seasons of my youth were a melange of sights, sounds and smells. From age 5, I put boxes on the ‘filler’ that would gently fill the boxes with graded, sized peaches, then push one box through with the empty box I’d just placed on the machine and repeat the process, tens of thousands of times.

It was a cacophony I can still hear in my mind today, the smell of water-cooled peaches, propane from the forklift, clanging metal parts, air compressors powering fillers, workers chattering over the equipment. It was an industrial dance, a symphony of activity.

It was also hard work. It was hard work done under the relentless deadline of ever-ripening fruit threatening to become worthless the second it got too soft to sell. Weather, slow picking crews, late hours, it was a pressure-cooker of stress through which my parents managed to raised three kids, seldom get frustrated with each other and pilot our small farm forward.

The Summer Symphony. Things are different now, but somehow remain the same. The peach packing house once silenced by our farm’s lack of size, now clangs and squeaks its motors to sort peaches into our juice press for our winery and others. Picking crews send in wagons of crates for hand sorting to send to auctions and other farm markets. Peach deliveries and juice delivery trucks roll out. Corn trucks are loaded, 2-5 a day, preparing room for this year’s crop.

Pick-your-own guests harvest perfect peaches straight from the trees in record numbers. Day camps take field trips to the Maize Quest Corn Maze & Fun Park. Wine tastings bustle each weekend. Bakery treats emerge from the ovens.

Yesterday was a pressure cooker kind of day. Michelle booking groups. Matt ordering winery supplies. The team at the maze starting and serving 3 different groups and 3 different times. Dad moving wagons and crews to and from each peach block. Charles pressing juice. Rocky forklifting. Frank driving truck and tractor.

Peaches ripening, deadlines looming. Fruit to guests. Fruit to wholesale customers. Juice to wineries.

The instruments have changed, but the symphony plays on. Each movement, each season different; the music of summer harvest continues.

The fleeting magic of juicy, sun-ripened freestone peaches lasts but a little while before Fall.

Two big peach picking weekends remain. Will you to join our merry band?

See you soon at the farm,

Farmer Hugh

Maple Lawn Farms – Life on the Farm

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Save the Date!

Pick-Your-Own Season is Coming with Blueberries June 25-26 & July 2-3 at Maple Lawn Farms!

Life on the Farm

Hey,

We sure have missed you! It seems so long between the last pumpkin leaves for home and the first fruits of spring, but the time is coming soon.

Cherries didn’t make it. Miraculously the farm’s fruit crops survived one of the most damaging late frost seasons in years. Blueberries, peaches, and apples are fine, but the cherries didn’t make it. I guess there just had to be one casualty, and this year, both sweet and sour cherries, were it.

But…

We are happy to announce our first-ever Blueberry Blitz Weekends! You are invited to TWO special, BIG pick-your-own weekends that will kick-off the rest of our fruit seasons.

Blueberry picking season this year will run Saturday June 25th thru July 26th, but we’ve got something special in store for the first two weekends.

The Great Blueberry Blitz includes Fruit & FUN for a $7 admission:

  • Train Rides for all ages in the blueberry patch ($7.00 VALUE!)
  • A FRESH Blueberry Sundae ($5.00 VALUE!)
  • 1lbs of PYO Blueberries FREE when you pick 5 or more pounds of blueberries! (3.75 VALUE!)

While you DO NOT need admission to pick-your-own berries, why not enjoy a family day of FUN?!

There’s more…

Miss Dee has been brainstorming new, blueberry treats to bake in the farm market. You’ll be able to get blueberry turnovers, blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry jam, blueberry syrup, even a new flavor of our world famous ringed treats – Blueberry Donuts!

And… July 2nd, we’re going ALL OUT with a FRESH Blueberry Pancake Breakfast at the farm market!

  • Get breakfast on the farm made with our own blueberries.
  • Use real maple syrup infused with gobs of our own blueberries.
  • Get sausage, coffee, tea or juice and you are powered up and ready for a morning picking in the patch! (LIMITED SEATING, please pre-register!)

But… we need YOUR help to spread the word and organize your friends and families to get those berries off the bushes.

Please forward this message or share our post on Facebook to help us spread the word. It’s going to be a TON of FUN and we can’t wait to welcome you BACK to the farm!

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July 2nd 8AM – 10AM

Come enjoy delicious freshly made with fresh blueberries blueberry pancakes! (it’s quite the mouthful)

Purchase your tickets by June 24th, and as a bonus for YOU save $2/ticket when you purchase today!

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Only two weekends left – “It’s always somebody.”

No Scare Halloween Weekend | 2 FOR 1 Pumpkin Picking | Farmer Hugh’s blog | FINAL Apple Picking |
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Big Pumpkin field
Get days this weekend for picking pumpkins Fri & Sat are the LAST CHANCE.
Life on the Farm – “It’s always somebody.”

Just two weeks to go for the Fall Harvest season. Yep, November 8th, we close the Farm Market & Maize Quest Corn Maze & Fun Park. Seems like only yesterday we were interviewing new employees for the team, but it was July.
As we prepare to bid our guests farewell for the season, it makes me realize how much I’ll miss the crew of Mazemasters, Donutmasters, Marketmasters and Orchardmasters who help make our farm the warm, inviting place it is.
No matter how many attractions we add, the experience comes down to people. You might say, “It’s always somebody.”
Somebody welcomes you. When you arrive and get your tickets, somebody welcomes you. While I’d love to welcome each guest myself, I can’t possibly do it without friendly teens and adults who work here to help you.
Somebody cooks for you. Our bakery & donut crew is the largest, most cross-trained team we’ve ever had and they’ve put out more apple cider donuts, pies and dumplings than ever.
Somebody cares for you. Whether on a ride, like our new Hidden Gem Railroad, checking out your treats in the market, learning on a school tour in the orchard or getting your video introduction in for the corn maze, our team is caring for you. Answering questions, making change, stocking sodas, checking tractors – they do it all.
I’m really thankful you are our guests.
YOU make our dream of operating this family farm possible.
  1. APPLES: Final weekend in the orchard! York, Stayman, Rome, Smoothee, Red Chief, Empire, JonaGold for apple picking in the orchard.
  2. PUMPKINS: Buy 1, Get 1 Pumpkin Blowout! Pumpkin Express Wagon Rides are FREE starting Fri-Sat at 11AM, just pay for the pumpkins you pick: $.75 per pound, but NO PUMPKIN costs more than $12, no matter how BIG!
  3. SAVE on Maize Quest Tickets and experience our newest attraction the Hidden Gem Railroad Trackless Train Ride. [CLICK HERE]
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The most polular three-dimensional twisty puzzle is the Rubik’s Cube. Learn the easiest cube solution here.

Life on the Farm – “Worth 1,000 words?”

 Amazing Pumpkin Panorama | Pumpkin Patch Picking | PRIME Apple Picking |
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Eric Big Pumpkin
Life on the Farm – “Worth 1,000 words?”

Hi,

We’ve always been total “A picture is worth a 1,000 words”, but is that really true? This week, I’d like to find out what you think.
Picture people: We are holding a Photo contest for Maize Quest tickets. Load your best photos from Maize Quest, the pumpkin patch, the apple orchard or enjoying the bakery. (We’ll share the pics on Facebook and maybe in a future email.)
Word people: You’ve read a bunch of musings from a short, bald farmer. Ever wonder why? I think words are powerful and I’d love to hear what’s important to your family. Write me back, Word People! (We’ll share your musings about the farm, family and your Fall traditions.)
The case for Pictures. Visual images are captivating. Their power seems derived from their ability to communicate emotion instantaneously. They are a moment frozen in time that allows us to imagine ourselves in that moment, too.
The case for Words. Words are magical. I particularly like the spoken word. One of my products feats as a father was reading the entire Harry Potter series to my son Ian, all 4,000 pages of it, complete with character voices a la Jim Daily. Words are magical. Close your eyes and words allow your mind to form the picture that is precisely right for you.
So, which are you?Pictures or Words?
Is a picture worth a thousand words or can a thousand words create amazing pictures in your mind?
I’d love to know what you think. If you want to super-charge your senses, come to the farm this weekend. Sights, colors, sounds, smells, visual feasts and actual feasts await you.
At Maple Lawn Farms & Maize Quest we don’t have customers, we only have guests. As our guest, you’ll get some great pictures of your family. Mark my words.
See you soon on the farm,
Hugh
PS This weekend is going to be a “classic”. Crisp, cool and October sunny. you never know what might happen next weekend, so get here while you can. Get directions [CLICK].

Life on the Farm- “You just never know.”

Gorgeous Columbus Day Weekend on the Farm | PRIME Apple Picking | Get Your Pumpkins | Farmer Hugh’s blog
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It’s Fall Y’all! Great weather Sat-Sun-Mon, spend family time on the farm.
Eric Big Pumpkin
Beautiful sunset over the Pumpkin Shed.
Things to Know this Week:
  1. APPLES: Granny Smith, York, Stayman, Rome, Smoothee, Red Chief, Empire, Fuji, JonaGold for apple picking in the orchard. Just $15 per half-bushel. PUMPKINS: Pumpkin Express Wagon Rides are FREE starting Fri-Sat at 11AM, just pay for the pumpkins you pick: $.75 per pound, but NO PUMPKIN costs more than $12, no matter how BIG!
Life on the Farm: “You just never know.”

Hi,

What a crazy time of year. On the farm when it’s harvest time, you still have all the other work to do and you have to harvest all the crops. During this time, it’s akin to being “in the Red Zone” 24/7. You just never know what’s going to happen.

This past week alone, we had hurricane threat, a long-time church friend pass away, clarinet lessons, (I’m writing this before we leave for..) soccer practice, social media posts to share, CSA boxes to pack, construction to supervise, supplies to pick-up, a family to feed, kids’ homework to check – you just never know what’s going to happen.

So what do you do when you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Step 1. Prepare as best you can. We knew rain was coming. We knew we wouldn’t be selling hundreds of baskets of apples and hundreds of tickets, so we enacted our plan to reduce hours and staff, update our communications with our guests and make wise decisions based on staff and guest safety. Sure, we weren’t busy in the rain, but we minimized the impact on our staff and guests.

Step 2. Stay positive. In farming, you live by the weather which happens to be completely out of your control. We know rain is a bummer for everyone, but we’ll be open next weekend and the sunshine will be back. The sun will (actually) come out tomorrow!

Step 3. Keep your eyes on the prize. At Maize Quest, we don’t have a Mission Statement, we have a mantra: “Make People Happy.” That’s it. That’s the mission, the filter for choices, the guiding light for our business and our staff. When a situation comes up, we evaluate the response with “What will make people happy?” We often say, “It doesn’t matter how you feel, it’s what you do that matters.” We are going to take care of each and everyone of you, our farm guests, no matter what.

So here we are, a week after the big rain event. The apples are still on the trees, the corn maze looks great, the fields are dried out, the cool weather is great for hot chocolate, the pumpkins are freshly washed.

We can’t possibly know what next weekend will bring, BUT this weekend looks great with sunny weather Sat-Sun-Mon.

Are you ready for a break?
Get lost with your family on the farm.
Get lost from the hassles.
Get lost from the over-scheduled schedules.
Get lost from the hustle and bustle to breathe clean air, walk the stalks, eat from the trees and sample treats in the market.

Purposefully take the time, choose to use your time to unplug from the world and escape together, just for one day this weekend.

You just never know what next week will bring.

See you soon on the farm,
Hugh
PS Need a farm field trip for your learning adventure? Groups are booking right now. Email Michelle at michelle@cornmaze.com or call her 717-495-1759. Over a dozen groups booked last week alone and time slots are going fast! Learn more about groups at Maize Quest [CLICK HERE]
PPS We almost never have a good crop of Granny Smith Apples, but this year is exceptional. Granny Smith will SELL OUT of the orchard, likely by Monday, so if you like the tartest apple out there, get here soon 🙂
Maize Quest Open Every Weekend!

What’s FUN at the Fun Park?

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Hugh, The Maze Master

Apple Alert- “Git yer Grannies!”

Granny Smith: Once every 10 years, we get a crop like this.
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Grab your Grannies whilst you can. They will SELL OUT in the U-pick orchard in less than 7 days.
Eric Big Pumpkin
Beautiful sunset over the Pumpkin Shed.
Limited time picking for Grannies & JonaGold Apples.

Just a quick orchard update. Granny Smith apples rose to fame during Martha Stewart’s tenure as America’s home cooking guru. They are extremely tart, GREEN apples. Great for baking.
We have a very limited planting of them and a VERY limited chance to get a good crop of them, but this is one of those exceptional years.
Fortunately & unfortunately, they are SUPER POPULAR (unlike me in high school:-)! They will SELL OUT likely within 7 days of this email.
Everyone always asks me when Grannies are ready, so here’s your fair warning. Get here this weekend to get them or your Grannies will be GONE!!!

See you soon on the farm,
Hugh