Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Farmers' Market Profile: Jim Kent of Locust Grove Fruit Farm

(First of three parts)

With all the perfect-looking fruits and vegetables at the supermarket, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many variables exist in every step of the growing process.

Here in the Northeast United States, we had an extraordinarily wet spring, followed by less-than-ideal weather mid-summer.

This double whammy created trying growing conditions for some crops, but benefited others. Unfortunately, with our markets displaying only unblemished produce suitable for the Food Network, the many factors which farmers have to contend with get glossed over.

Jim Kent and his family have been operating Locust Grove Fruit Farm in Milton, N.Y. since 1820. Kent and his apples, pears, peaches, berries, cherries and grapes are regulars at New York City’s farmers’ markets.

But almost 200 years of fruit growing knowledge couldn’t help the Kents stop Mother Nature and this year’s heavy rains, which had varying effects on different fruits.

“The Mutsus are as big as your head,” Kent said, referring to one of 70 apple varieties he grows. “All the rain stopped just in time. The apples got big, but not watery like the summer fruits and vegetables. Apples can handle water better.”

Apples are considered a late summer/fall fruit. The first variety Kent picks are Lodi in late July, while the last are Pink Ladies—more than three months later—in early November.

(Tomorrow: More on this year's harvest)

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