Turn Local Apples into Apple Dumplings

Fall, Heroes, In Season, Local Heroes
on September 1, 2009
Ben Wenk, Apple Grower
Tyler D. Fetters

On a typical fall Tuesday, Ben Wenk, the one-man marketing team for Three Springs Fruit Farm in Aspers, Pa., drives 140 miles to deliver apples and other produce to Philadelphia. The 25-year-old's days are grueling; he clocks 75 hours a week during the growing season. "I could have picked an easier way to earn a living," he says with a chuckle.

But when a customer buys his crisp Grimes Golden because the heirloom variety tastes like the apples she once picked in her grandmother's yard, the hard work pays off.

Last year, when Wenk learned that a growers-only farmers' market was about to open in Philadelphia, he decided to come home to the family farm after graduation to secure a spot at the market–and usher Three Springs, farmed by his family for seven generations, into the 21st century.

He gathered e-mail addresses from his customers and started a weekly electronic newsletter. Next, he created a website for Three Springs Fruit Farm and started a blog, where he dives into discussions of pheromone mating disruption for pest management, posts locations for farmers' markets and the types of produce available, and laments the effect of the year's rainy weather on his crops.

On weekends, customers flock to his stand at the farmers' market. They may have been drawn in by some newfangled newsletter or high-tech blog, but they keep coming back for those antique apples that offer the sweet taste of tradition.

Story by Joy Manning, a food writer in Philadelphia, Pa.