Jerzy Boyz Farm – Deliciously Crisp Organic Apples

Goodlifer: Jerzy Boyz Farm - Deliciously Crisp Organic Apples

One of the great things about autumn is biting into a crisp, delicious apple. Many times, though, supermarket apples are a serious let-down. They’re too bruised from transportation and being tossed into a bin with countless others of their kind, or they’ve suffered from a lengthy storage period, or they’re just not especially fresh. So how do you find a truly fresh, crisp apple? Aside from growing your own tree, it can be difficult. Enter Jerzy Boyz Farm, of Chelan, Washington, a five acre farm devoted to growing apples and pears. They started in 1989 with just a handful of trees, but they now have well over 3500, and they grow about one hundred varieties!

Jim Cook and Wynne Weinreb of Jerzy Boyz Farm.

Jim Cook and Wynne Weinreb of Jerzy Boyz Farm.

Quite apart from their belief in diversity, these are no ordinary growers. The folks at Jerzy Boyz Farm (yes, the founders really were from New Jersey; they moved west in the late 1970s) are adamant about organic farming. Now, we all know that the term “organic” has been greatly misused in the past decade, but this farm is the real deal. Proprietor Jim Cook believes in biological pest control to the point that he welcomes rattlesnakes and coyotes in his orchard. Rodents are never a problem. Nor are aphids, whose predators find shelter in the cover crop of red clover and flowering wild plants. Cook stumbled across the site of the orchard a decade ago while hiking. He noticed a “For Sale” sign on a long, narrow stretch of virgin ground on the northern edge of Howard Flats near Chelan, overlooking the Columbia River 400 feet below. He told his friend Scott Beaton about it, and the two men and their wives decided to go into partnership to buy the property. Both Cook and Beaton had worked for many years in the tree fruit industry. “We were both at a crossroads, trying to decide where to go from there,” says Cook.

he Red Clapp's Pear is one of the first fresh pears of the year, ready to eat in mid August.

This is a small-scale operation, with firm convictions regarding improving soil quality, minimal mechanization, and low input farming. Fruit is picked when it is fully mature, something that makes a huge difference in flavor (when was the last time you found a truly ripe, really fresh pear in a grocery store?). The website lists harvest dates for all the fruit, which is packed by hand prior to shipping. Jerzy Boyz Farm is particularly careful about their shipping; my box of apples and pears, sent via the Post Office, was packed so carefully that there was nary a bruise on even a single piece of fruit.

Chelan and Beaton decided to grow fruit organically because they believed that chemical herbicides and pesticides were dangerous to workers and polluted the environment. They wanted to grow healthy and tasty fruit. Cook now lives in a solar-powered house in the midst of one of the most picturesque and tranquil orchards around. At bloom time, a quiet “snip, snip” of scissors is the only evidence you’ll hear that blossom thinning is going on. Cook has two Ferrari tractors dating back to the early 1980s that sit idle most of the time. He tries to use as little gasoline as possible, and the less time he spends on machinery and mechanics, the more he likes it. “There’s enough for me to do,” he said. “The more you use machinery, the more maintenance it requires. A lot of times, people find themselves having to hire a part-time or full-time mechanic, and then you get into the predicament where you have to expand your acreage to afford the full-time mechanic.”

Pears, carefully wrapped.

Pears, carefully wrapped.

The best news of all? Should you happen not to live near them, or near one of the Farmers Markets they frequent, Jerzy Boyz Farm will ship their fruit to your very doorstep. Bear in mind that these folks are farmers first and foremost; everything else is secondary. That’s a fancy way of telling you that they do not have online ordering or accept credit cards. You call or e-mail so they can tell you what’s freshest and best, and you get to select what you want in your box (or you can leave that decision to them); you then send them a check. Gift boxes start at about 7 pounds (12 pieces of fruit). I love their Red Clapp Pears (and I’m not usually a pear fan), and, while you can stick with apples familiar to us all (the HoneyCrisps here rock), if you’re an adventurous type, it’s almost a certainty they’ll have at least one kind of apple you’ve never heard of before.

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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