Family-owned apple farm has deep roots
From the 7/29/99 issue of North County News


In 1909, young Russell Shaw spent his days loading up wooden barrels with York Imperial apples at a farm near his Stewartstown, Pa. home. His father, Calvin, worked for the Stewartstown Railroad that shipped the apples up and down the East Coast.

It didn't take Russell long to realize the farmer was making a lot more money growing apples than he was packing them. At age 18, he talked his father into planting apple trees on the Shaw family farm.

Some 90 years later, Russell and the original apple trees are long gone, but Shaw Orchards is a flourishing business run by his grandson, Glenn Shaw.

Glenn, who has a PH.D. from University of Maryland in post-harvest physiology, took over the orchards from his father, Clay, in 1973. His wife, Mary Sue, works side by side with her husband in the family business.

The enterprise has blossomed over the years. Shaw Orchards now grows and sells eight varieties of apples, including 2,000 newly planted trees that will yield Cameo apples, known for being sweet/tart and long-lasting. The land also produces cherries, strawberries, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, and pumpkins.

"In a way, we're not doing things that much differently than my grandfather did," said Glenn Shaw,57. "You still have to pick by hand, pack the crates by hand, and prune the trees by hand."

But Glenn has high-tech help not available to either his grandfather or father. Early every morning, he receives faxes from SkyBit, Inc., a company that compiles data on everything from soil temperature and wind speed and direction, to rainfall and the anticipated emergence of bugs that will attack the fruit if not sprayed.

The biggest problem to befall the orchards over the years has been hail storms. The Shaws recall five storms that destroyed fruit and damaged trees. The damaged fruit was sold for juice and the trees were nursed back to normal productivity.

Glenn also now plants trees that are smaller and more manageable than those of his predecessors. He recalls his father growing corn and grain in between the rows of large trees, a practice that he no longer follows because the small trees can be planted closer together.

The family owns 265 acres that straddle the Mason-Dixon line. The Shaw's 1860 farmhouse is in Pennsylvania, but its mailbox across the street is in Maryland. Mary Sue said family legend holds that the Shaws could hear Civil War cannons being fired during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Glenn said about 175 acres are cultivated in fruit. About half that acreage is in apples, one-third in peaches, and the rest is planted with assorted fruit.

Many Maryland and Pennsylvania shoppers have already tasted Shaw Orchards fruit without knowing it. Trucks leave the packing house daily, filled with fruit for grocery stores that include Graul's in Hereford, several Giant stores in Baltimore County, Klein's in Harford County, and others in Pennsylvania.

In addition, Shaw's supplies dozens of farm stands with juicy peaches, crisp apples and sweet plums.

Fresh fruit-shoppers can also stop by Shaw's farm stand in Stewartstown. In addition to their own fruit, Shaw's sells pickles, jams and jellies, some homemade by Mary Sue. The farm stand, built by Russell in 1910, still has some reminders of the old days. An old coal stove once used to heat the building and Glenn's grandmother's 1920s stove are used to display merchandise.

Several wooden barrels that Russell once used are also on display.

"Back then, they used to put one ring of apples very neatly in the bottom of the barrel," Mary Sue said. "Then they'd fill up the rest of the barrel with apples. It was flipped over before it was opened, so the crowned end was at the top."

Back to Home Page