CHANGE IS GOOD
Third generation now runs Stewartstown area
From the 7/25/99 issue of York Sunday News.
By Barb Krebs
Shaw Orchards, located on the Mason-Dixon Line south of Stewartstown, is
celebrating 90 fruitful years of success
-- and a lot of change along the way.
In fact, change is the name
of the game at the third-generation family
orchard started in 1909 by Russell Shaw.
To win the game -- which
in this case means keeping the business thriving
-- Russell's grandson Glenn W. Shaw has had to embrace change rather
than regard it with a suspicious eye.
"What sells is size and color. There are techniques we use now to
improve size. Especially with peaches we do things like
blossom thinning that we didn't used to do," said Shaw, who now owns
and operates the orchard business.
And with the
introduction of new varieties of apples and other fruits, growers find
it necessary to plant new trees to keep pace with the
market, he said.
The Shaws know their
orchard's roots well. It was Russell, then age 18, who
had the idea to start planting trees in 1909 while working with his
father, Calvin W. Shaw, at the Stewartstown Railroad
and seeing apples packed in barrels headed for East Coast shipping
ports. He thought the Shaws should plant apples on their
farm to take advantage of this new export commodity.
young orchard prospered and was well-established when
his son, Clay, took over the business in 1951. The industry saw many
changes then, such as dwarfing rootstocks, which made
trees smaller and their fruit easier to harvest.
The Shaws keep a
piece of their early history on display in their farm market -- several
of the barrels used to pack and ship apples in Clay's day.
small person had to reach into the barrel and place concentric rings of
apples around the bottom," said Mary Sue Shaw, who has worked alongside
her husband as farm-market manager for the past 20 years. "The barrel
was then filled with loose apples and was inverted making the crowned
end at the top so it would look pretty when it was opened."
Shaw, Clay's son, took over the business in 1973, concentrating on
replanting with the most up-to-date varieties. Shaw said he was the
first in the area to plant the Gala variety of apples, now a popular
The Shaw's Civil War-era home sits just north of the
Mason-Dixon Line in Pennsylvania. The old packing house, site of the
farm market, and most of their orchards are located in
The farm market has become
diversified through the years. The Shaws now sell a wider variety of
fruits grown in the orchards as well as local vegetables and homemade
jams and jellies, apple butter and apple cider, baked goods, salad
dressings, honey, and syrups.
"More is better. The more you have
the more likely you are to be able to please the customer," said Mary
With the closing of some supermarket chains and the
consolidation of others, the number of wholesale buyers is decreasing.
Glenn Shaw said growers will have to become larger to compete in the
All of the country's growers are facing stiff
competition from China where raising apples has become big business.
In addition to the fruit sold at their farm market, the Shaws
supply a number of local stores and ship fresh market apples to a large
Adams County packing house that packs and ships more than a million
bushels of apples a year.
The processing apples used for juice
and apple sauce are shipped to Knouse Foods in Adams
Fruit growers face many challenges, not
the least of which is weather. Each year seems hotter and drier than
the last, Glenn Shaw said.
With the current drought conditions,
he is irrigating some of his trees, using water from a farm pond. He
plans to begin pumping water from an old hand dug well that has never
been used for irrigation before.
So far this year, the Shaws
have not had to contend with hail -- the most dreaded weather problem of
all for fruit growers. A hail storm has the potential to destroy the
current crop and seriously damage the following year's crop, as
Finding farm labor is always a challenge when it comes to
managing the 175-acre orchard, Glenn Shaw said. He has 15 full and part
time employees, including migrant workers.
Bees, necessary for
pollination are also sometimes in short supply in the orchard, he said.
A local bee keeper has hives on the farm and, during peak blossom
season, Glenn Shaw also rents about 40 hives.
Despite all the potential problems with growing fruit, the
Shaws say they love it.
"It's in our blood. Glenn was raised in
the industry, and he's the happiest growing fruit," said Mary Sue Shaw.
"There are challenges, but it wouldn't be as rewarding if it weren't
quite so challenging."
Although the busiest time of the year runs
from April until Thanksgiving, growers are under the most pressure
during peach season.
"They (peaches) are so perishable. It is a
lot of pressure. You have to pick them carefully and get them in
without bruising them and get them marketed before they get soft.
Apples are so much easier to handle," said Mary Sue Shaw.
do more than harvest fruit. The trees are pruned at least once a year,
and new trees are planted on an annual basis.
As the Shaws look
ahead to the new millennium, they continue to research new varieties and
techniques to trim production costs while continuing to please
New marketing tools, such as the Internet, have
increased their exposure. Under the management of their son, Barron
Shaw, they have their own Web site -- www.shaworchards.com
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