tomatoes in a basket

tomatoes in a basket

This year our farm planted roughly 10 varieties of tomatoes in our 5 ½ acre garden.  Before I give you some background on each one, I wanted to talk about some of the benefits of tomatoes.  They are packed full of antioxidants, which are linked to many health benefits.   Some of those benefits include; improving vision, improving digestive health, and reducing high blood pressure.  Tomatoes are one of my top 5 favorite summer garden items, so knowing that they also have some health benefits is a win-win in my book.

 

Let’s talk about how to prepare your tomatoes.  One of my favorite things I make with my first garden tomato of the year, is a tomato sandwich.  I know… it’s so plain and simple, but man it is so good.  I prefer white bread, not toasted, with Dukes mayo and salt and pepper.  While you can use another brand of mayo, Duke’s is really the best.  This makes a great dinner after a busy day of summer farming.  I also like to just eat tomatoes plain, with salt and pepper.    I also like to use them in salads, soups, stir fry, and casseroles.  Check out our Pinterest page for some more delectable tomato recipe ideas.

 

Time for our variety breakdown…Let’s start with the standard red tomato we grow – Sunbrite.  Sunbrite tomatoes are good for almost everything:  eating fresh, or canning.  If you’re looking for just a regular red tomato, this is your go-to.

We also grow Mariana, which is a large Roma type sauce tomato.  They are best for canning, sauce, salsa, or juice, because there is a lot of meat to them.

Cherokee Purple tomatoes a round to beefsteak sized tomato, but tend to be green, purple, and brown in color.  They are great for eating fresh, putting on salads, or adding to your homemade pizzas.  They have nice acidity with a sweet touch. The story behind this variety is that they were originally from the Cherokee Indians and the seed had been passed down for decades until the 1990’s when the grower in Sevierville, TN sent them in for commercial production.

Mortgage Lifter is a mid-sized beefsteak pink tomato. This is my personal favorite. So sweet that they add a special touch to recipes if you use them primarily or you can mix them with others to make a colorful mix.   These are great for BLT sandwiches, or in a salad.

Lemon Boy is a small round yellow tomato.  Yellow tomatoes are known for low acidity, making them sweet and mild.  I personally use them on sandwiches, or in pasta dishes.  You can layer them with red tomatoes for a beautiful caprese salad.

Orange Banana Tomatoes are a paste type, very similar to the Roma tomato in shape.  They work best for drying, canning, or sauce.  They are a very meaty tomato with a fruity flavor.

Red Zebras are a super flavorful striped plum tomato.  They are almost always perfectly round.  I usually eat them fresh, but they are also good for roasting, making sauces, and canning.  I find they have a little zing to them.

Opalka paste tomatoes are my favorite tomato we grow.  They have a lot less seeds then even the Roma tomatoes do.  I like to use them in sauce, but I also slice them thin and put them on pizza.  They are fantastic for fresh tomato soup as well. You can chunk them and add to vegetable soup or chili and it really enhances the flavor of those dishes.

Old German tomatoes are an heirloom beefsteak tomato with a yellow and red striped hue. They are great for eating fresh, or putting in salads.  They are known for less seeds and fantastic flavor.

Hungarian Heart is a new pink tomato variety for us this year, but it has not disappointed us.  It’s a great versatile tomato, that’s good for eating, roasting, sauces, or canning.  It’s pink in color like the Mortgage Lifters, but is shaped like a heart.

Next time you’re at the market, I hope you find this guide helpful when choosing some tomatoes to try.  Our gardens have just started producing for the year, so there should be no shortage anytime soon.  Enjoy!

This is one of my favorite times of the year, for many reasons.  This is the time when we actually get to start harvesting our fruits, and vegetables.  With roughly 50 acres of garden space, our imagination gets to run wild when we plant, which makes for a super busy harvest season.  I also like the hustle, and bustle, that comes with the summertime.  Long, hot summer days make you appreciate the winter much more.

 

This year, as you drive down Orr Drive, and look to the left, you will see 5 acres of just vegetable plants.  There are tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, peppers, and so much more.  We have been harvesting things from the garden for roughly a month now.  We are starting to see more, and more vegetables come in the door each week than the one before.  This is good news, seeing as how we planted double the number of seeds than we did last year.

 

Our barnyard manager, Tammy, hand selected and helped plant our pick your own flower patch this year.  She has over 20 years of experience working with plants, so she makes for the perfect person to oversee our flower garden.  This year, she planted zinnias, sunflowers, and snapdragons.  They’ve started blooming more, and more, over the past week.  We’ve decided to open up the patch next week to pick your own flowers.

 

As for berries, aside from strawberries, and cherries, we also grow blackberries.  We have 6 rows of blackberry vines total, which produce roughly 10,000 quarts of berries per season.  Blackberries usually start to ripen around the end of July, and last until the beginning of September.  I did check the patch this morning and noticed that there are some ripe berries out there, which means an earlier start date than we thought!  Blackberries are great for eating, jam, jelly, ice cream, or my personal favorite; cobbler.  Check out our Pinterest page for blackberry recipes.

 

As you drive in, you’ll also see rows and rows of peaches.  Mostly yellow peaches, although we do grow white peaches as well.  Peach season starts in late June and runs through the end of September.  My favorite variety we grow is the “Coral Star.”  I first had it two years ago, and I can’t wait until it’s picked each season.

 

Lastly, believe it or not, we’ve started picking apples already for the season.  We start with a summer variety called “Transparent,” and end with “Gold Rush” in late November.  Between our farm and the farm we rent, we harvest over 30 different types of apples.

 

We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the gardens, and orchard. Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes things.

July Farm News

The time has come…peach season is in full swing!  Peaches are by far, my favorite fruit.  Taking a bit out of the perfect one and having the juice run down your arm just screams summer to me.  Peaches are such a versatile fruit.  What other fruit can you- freeze, can, blend into a smoothie, juice, churn ice cream with, or eat fresh?  I’m sure there are some that come close, but nothing compares to a juicy, sweet, peach.

 

We have roughly 200 acres of peaches planted at our orchard.  We grow a total of 10 varieties, both yellow, and white-fleshed.  We also lease a neighboring orchard, Butler or B&G Orchard, and harvest 8 varieties from their trees.  Peach season usually starts with the variety “Rich May,” and ends with “Victoria.”  Peach season lasts approximately 3 months.  The first varieties to come off the trees are cling peaches, then comes semi-cling, and lastly, freestone, or cling-free.  What does each of those mean?  Cling peaches mean the peach sticks to the seed or pit.  We recommend these peaches for eating or quick baking tasks.  Semi-cling means the peach comes off the seed/pit more easily, but not completely.  These are best for eating, and if you are craving a pie, they would work for that, in a pinch.  Lastly, freestone, or cling-free, means the peach completely falls off the seed. These are great for everything.  Using a freestone, or cling-free peach for canning, freezing, or baking, makes your life so much easier when processing the fruit. Keep in mind that weather can change these qualities a bit…but as a rule that’s what should happen.

 

Once the peaches are harvested, we haul some to the market to sell fresh, and some to our peach packing facility- “Loring Hill Packing Shed” where they are commercially packed.  The peaches that go to Loring Hill are washed, cooled, sorted, bagged, and boxed for wholesale orders.  Wholesale orders include independent bulk customers, other farm markets, and even grocery stores.

 

Peaches are such a versatile fruit that can be used in lots of dishes.  They are also just as good sliced up if you want something simple.  To see what varieties we will have in next, join our e-newsletter for updates.  You can also check out our Pinterest page for lots of delicious peach recipes.

 

donkeys in barn

donkeys in barnThe Barnyard at Orr’s has been open since 2018.  It originally started as the new location for our pumpkin patch with the idea that we’d add animals and a small petting zoo. Each season we’ve added new animals, some purchased…and some born here.  Now we’re open 3 seasons a year with reservations! We’ll host our 2022 pumpkin patch this fall, but until then come enjoy the summer activities.

If you recall, this area was traditionally the Donald Catrow dairy farm. We purchased the farm about 25 years ago as Mr. Catrow was retiring, and have used it for cattle, horses, and finally bison. Mark Orr wanted to purchase a small herd of bison in the early 2000s. We grew our herd from 6 bison to about 25 when we decided to exit the bison business. We occasionally get questions about where they went. It was a family decision to sell the herd due to the dangerous nature of the animals. We knew that if we wanted to host children and small farm animals at that location, the bison would have to be sold to another owner. Luckily for us, we found a buyer who took the whole herd as a group. This allowed the animals to stay together and head to a new home.

We host roughly 30,000 people per year at The Barnyard at Orr’s.  The peak season is from September through October because our busy pumpkin patch and corn maze.  During the spring and summer months, you can still visit Monday-Saturday from 9-5, and see any of our furry friends up close. It’s especially fun to watch the baby animals arrive.  So far our residents are: 1 cow, 2 emu, 2 alpacas, 4 donkeys, 6 mini horses, 7 sheep, 9 rabbits, 10 fancy chickens, 15 ducks, 15 peacocks, 25 goats, and 75 chickens.  These are our pets and they all have names.  Most are located in The Barnyard area, although, 1 emu and the 2 alpacas are located at the end of Orr Drive in their own pasture.

 

Have you had farm-fresh eggs?  What about farm-fresh duck eggs?  We sell both at Orr’s Farm Market, hand-collected daily from our farm. We get roughly 5 dozen chicken eggs/day, and about a dozen duck eggs/day.  If you pick up a pack of duck eggs, it’s good to know that while they have been cleaned, they still may appear dirty.  No worries, it’s just the natural color of the shell.

One of our favorite attractions is our Farmer Fun Playground, which was added in 2021.  We brought it in from New Jersey and had it installed in the spring of that year.  It has 3 slides, 2 rock climbing walls, and lots of other things to keep your littles entertained.  This is probably the biggest hit at our barnyard, aside from, of course, the animals.

Another feature of our Barnyard package is the scenic hayride down and back. People come from miles away to enjoy the fresh air and rolling West Virginia views. It’s about a 10-15 minute ride through our orchard in each direction.

If you’ve been to The Barnyard at Orr’s before, you know we have a “Snack Shack.”  New this season, we’ll be selling Hershey’s novelty ice cream.  What better treat on a hot, sunny day, than an ice cream bar???  You can also head up to the farm market and get one of our flavors of frozen slushies.  We try to change out our slushy flavors every few weeks to make it exciting for you!

We hope you and your family visit us this summer at The Barnyard at Orr’s.  You will make so many special memories, that you will be sure to cherish for years to come.  Book your reservation today.

Apple Nachos

Apple Nachos

Some of my favorite apples are Granny Smith, Pink Lady, and Mountaineer York. I’m always looking at different ways to prepare them, so I don’t get burnt out, on the same thing. Recently, I’ve been making apple nachos. To make this, wash, and cut up your apple. Heat up some caramel, and chocolate. You can even use peanut butter, if you prefer. Drizzle it over top, and sprinkle with your favorite toppings. So good, and still healthy-ish. Apples have so many uses.  Think about it; Juices, cider, pies, salads, cakes, and so much more. A staple in my house is apple pie, and vanilla ice cream, for dessert. You can’t go wrong, when it comes to pie. Click this link, to our Pinterest page, to find recipes for apples.    

This time of year, most customers are surprised to learn, that we still have apples. We are done harvesting our apples by mid-November, usually. We put them into cold storage once picked, to preserve them, without jeopardizing the flavor. Our farm grows over 20 varieties of apples. We also rent a neighboring farm, from which we harvest roughly 15 varieties as well. This makes for lots, and lots, of apples. Our apple season seems to extend each year, which is great for our customers. Did you know that apple trees make up over half of the world’s tree fruit production? Apples are rich in fiber, and antioxidants. Apples from the grocery store are always a gamble, as you really don’t know where they are coming from, or how long they’ve been sitting on the shelf. Our apples in the farm market are sorted daily, to ensure the very best, quality, for our guests. Make sure you pick up some apples next time you visit! 

Summer Veggies

Summer Veggies

Did you know that we put months of planning into our gardens each year? It’s not as easy as just picking out some seeds, and throwing them in the ground for us. We plant multiple gardens every season, full of lively vigorous plants. Starting in January every year, we have a Garden Planning Meeting as a team. In February we order the seeds from some trusted seed companies.Happily seeds were a bit easier to purchase in 2021 than last year! Some of the plants are started as garden transplants at locally operated Colonial Farms Nursery. Other items we just start from seed in the ground. We depend on our garden produce to source our veggies for the farm market and our new CSA delivery program. We strive to have as much homegrown produce as possible in our market and try to offer bulk discounts on items in bushel amounts. You’ll notice we put the location each item is from in the bottom right corner of our price sign. That’s how you know if it’s Orr’s or Locally grown.

Harvest has begun and is gradually increasing by the day. Once the gardens start producing, we pick them every other day. Asparagus is our first crop we pick, and lasts about 4 weeks. A few weeks later, the other plants start producing, and things get crazy for the remainder of the season. Peppers, eggplant, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes are just some of the things we grow. Once the gardens have been picked, we take the produce into the market, and prepare it to sell. All of the veggies we pick get washed prior to going on the sales floor. As we wash, we also sort through everything to ensure we’ve got the best of the best. Produce also has to be entered into our inventory so that you can purchase it online for curbside delivery.

There are several ways to get your fix of our delicious veggies. Simply stop in the market, browse the rainbow of colors, and find what’s best for your appetite. You can also be put on our waiting list if you’re looking for a specific variety or a large amount of an item. Once you’re on the list, you get called as soon as we pick the crop, and have enough to fulfil your order. Larger quantities are nice for canning, or freezing. Preserving your favorite veggie is a good way to have that fresh treat, all year long. Who doesn’t love to pull out some frozen peppers in the middle of winter and make a fresh meal?

We’ve started to pick the gardens for the year. If you stop in the market now, you’ll find eggplant, green bell peppers, jalapenos, yellow squash, zucchini, and green cabbage. Does eggplant sound interesting, but, afraid to try it, or don’t know how to make it? Here’s a great article with photos and video called “How to prepare eggplant for cooking” by Good Housekeeping. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be elaborate. My favorite thing to do with fresh garden veggies is so easy, anyone can do it. Cut up all your ingredients, season to taste, add some EVOO, and throw it on the grill until tender. Pair with some local steak from our freezer section, and you’ve got yourself a simple summer time meal.

Here’s to keeping it fresh and delicious this summer!

Orrs Strawberries

Orrs Strawberries

We’ve invited the public out year after year, since the 1980’s, for pick your own strawberries.  That’s over 40 years of planting, tending, and harvesting this tasty fruit.  We usually plant our strawberries in late summer or early fall as bare root plants.  In November or December, we cover them with plant covers to help protect them from the elements.  In March, we uncover the plants, to allow the blooming plants to be pollinated by the bees.    Once pollinated, the flower petals fall off, and start to grow the berry.  This is where the fun starts!  Did you know we have 5 different strawberry patches?  With over 45,000 plants, producing more than 20,000 pounds of berries per year, this is our biggest pick your own crop we grow. Next year we’re replanting our 3 oldest patches into high-density plantings. We’ll be doubling the amount of berry rows in each patch! We can already imagine the booming double portions we’ll receive from these plants.

Strawberry season this year looks a little different than previous years.  We are still doing pick your own, by reservation only, just like 2020.   We decided to change our pricing structure to be by container, versus per pound.  By prepaying for containers…you don’t have to return to the booth to weigh your buckets when you’re done. This makes the checkout process much less frustrating, as you are often hot and tired from picking and just want to head to your air conditioned car right away!  You can make your reservations here, and, get more tips, pricing, and schedules.

Prefer pre-picked instead?  Call the store at 304-263-1168, and we’d be happy to put an order in for you to pick up.  We are so excited for the 2021 picking season, and can’t wait to see you, and your family!

You’ve picked your berries, now, what to do with them?

• Freeze them for smoothies
• Make jam, jelly, or even butter
• Top off your summer salad
• Make cake, cobbler, or cupcakes
• Grind them up for strawberry ice cream
• Garnish your beverage with them

Once you’ve picked all your berries, follow this link for a strawberry cupcake recipe.

Mother's Day

Mother's Day

 

Every year, on the second Sunday of May, we celebrate the special women in our life. Did you know that more calls are made on Mother’s Day, than any other day of the year? Personally, my mom and I talk just about every day. I recognize the fact that one day, she won’t be here any longer. That’s why it’s so important to take a second now, and tell your mom, mother figure, female role model, that you love them.  

Want to do something different for Mother’s Day? How about a trip to the farm market? This time of year, it’s so pretty here. As you drive in, you’ll see the apple and peach trees with some beautiful mountain panoramic views as the background. Once at the market, there are colorful flowers and plants as far as the eye can see.  We’ll also have fresh Carolina strawberries, homegrown asparagus, and local apples. Once you’ve browsed through the market and gift shop, walk across the road to our beautiful field.  Our famous Orr’s Market old truck is awaiting all your photography ventures. It makes the perfect back drop for any family photo. Make sure to take a picture with mom while you’re here!  Share your photos with us on Facebook if you like, we get excited to see what you’ve captured on our farm.  

Finish off your visit by visiting The Barnyard at Orr’s. Book your reservation today, to ensure your spot for this busy customer weekend.  Visit Our Barnyard Page to see what is included in our Barnyard packages and check availability for your families visit. If you got “littles” with you, we’ve got a Farmer Fun Playground, which is new this year. Get up close to cute baby animals, like, bunnies, lambs, and goats. Don’t forget to visit with the mini horse, and mini donkeys while you’re here. Take this moment to create a memory with your beloved family members.

After your visit, click here for a link with 15 of the most popular Mother’s Day brunch ideas to make your life easier.  

One final note on this blog. We know many of you have recently lost your mothers or may not have a mother. Some of you may want to be mothers and are unable to be. Take a moment to brighten the day of a widow, child, or another female in your life who could benefit from that special outreach in their life. As someone who’s just experience the loss of a family member we know holidays are tough…and brightening the day for someone else always makes it better.

Orrs Asparagus

Orrs Asparagus

Calling all asparagus lovers, the time is here!  We just picked the first batch of homegrown asparagus from our gardens.  We grow both green, and purple asparagus.  What’s the difference you may ask?  Purple asparagus tends to taste a tad bit sweeter than the green.  Some people say they can’t tell the difference between the flavors of the two.  I personally like the green best, but, to each their own.  We usually pick asparagus through May.  

We harvest our asparagus spears when they reach about 8 to 10 inches in height.  You also want them to be at least a half inch thick.  When they’ve reached the perfect height, we hand cut each spear.  Once brought into the farm market, we cut them all to be about the same size, and bundle them by weight.  We’ve found it’s best to keep asparagus in water to help preserve it.  Once you take it home, simply place it in a measuring cup, or bowl, and fill about a half inch of water for it to sit in.  It can last up to a week this way.  Asparagus is both low in calories, and a great source of nutrients.  Research shows that it may make the best food for preventing osteoporosis, as it’s high in vitamin K.    

Ready to cook that bundle you just brought home?  Here are a few ideas of things to do with your asparagus. You can find a wealth of recipes on our Pinterest page»

  • Oven roasted 
  • Steamed 
  • Bacon wrapped 
  • Pan fried 
  • Add to stir fries, scrambled eggs, or pasta dishes
  • Try it on your Blackstone Grill!

Follow this link for a tasty recipe of baked asparagus fries.

Orrs Flowers

Can you believe it’s already April? Seems like just yesterday we were saying farewell to the crazy year of 2020.  A new year means new projects here on the farm. Did you know that the big building you see when you pull up to the market on the right is our packing shed? It operates just 6 months out of the year, but is such a crucial part of our farm when it comes to getting apples ready for our customers. If you were to drive up right now, you’d notice tons of construction workers. What’s happening to the packing shed, you may ask? We are adding on new front offices, as well as building a new bakery. The new bakery is the most exciting addition as it will allow us to expand our baked goods section – yum!  

Orrs Flowers

Over on the market side, our first outside flowers and herbs of the year arrived and I couldn’t be happier. There is something about fresh flowers that just make the store feel inviting. It’s getting warmer out by the day and flowers are the perfect addition to make the front of your home spring-ready! Fresh potted herbs like basil, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, and chives are a refreshing option to jazz up your meal.  Click this link to see a recipe for Lime Basil Pie!

The Barnyard at Orr's

The Barnyard at Orr’s is starting back up this month with lots of new features!  The hayride is included in your package and you will enjoy the beautiful blossoms as you ride to the Spring Barnyard. Upon arrival, you will get to see all the animals, including the goats and bunnies.  Did I mention we’re getting a brand new playground on Monday? Make sure you pack a lunch; you’ll want to stay awhile.  Forgot your lunch?  No worries, we’ve got a snack shack set up to curb your needs.  Make sure you bring your camera — there will be lots of photo opportunities! Click here to book your reservation for The Barnyard.