Martin Lively runs Lively Orchards in Flat Rock, NC. Marvin is a second generation farmer. His father started out growing “row crops,” but switched to apples when he could no longer handle the labor of planting, stooping, cutting, and packing. Marvin purchased his own piece of property and started planting trees in the 1960s. He now owns 50 acres of apple trees in close to a dozen varieties, and hopes to harvest 1000 bushels per acre. The trees begin bearing about five years after planting and will bear for up to 25 years. New varieties come around faster than the older trees peter out, as breeders develop fruit that ripens earlier, stores better, or has more vivid coloration.
Lively Orchards struggles to compete with large, West Coast farms that have big money invested in new varieties and state of the art equipment, and have the capability to market fruit online to large distributors. Southern growers also have far more pest and disease issues to deal with. Martin works with the NCSU Mountain Research Center to use safer and fewer pesticides and to introduce non-chemical pest reduction methods into his production. For example, he uses pheromone traps which sterilize one of his main pests, the codling moth, to reduce their population year after year.
North Carolina orchards have diminished in number as land prices rise due to housing demand. Hopefully, Marvin and his fellow orchardists will be able to hand down their land to someone to continue their legacy, so we can keep enjoying North Carolina apples.