Deep in the Brushy Mountains of Western North Carolina, there’s a hidden gem of apple production. An abundance of orchards dot the hillsides, and families have been growing apples here for generations.
Perry Lowe III, also known as Ty, is the sixth generation of his family to run an apple orchard. “Looking back in our history, it started in the early 1900s with people coming here from my family that actually grew apples. My grandfather had enough insight that this land was special, so he bought the land in the mid to late 1940s, and since the mid to late ‘40s we’ve been farming on this piece of property,” he says.
Fall is a busy time at the orchard. The Lowe family and a team of workers pick, wash, grade and box about four million apples each season. “It’s just a really really good life. A hard life, but a really good and enjoyable life as far as waking up and seeing apples every day,” he says.
There are dozens of orchards in the Brushy Mountains, in part because the soil and elevation are ideal for growing apples. There’s a lower chance of spring frost because of the isothermal belt, which causes heat absorbed by the soil during the day to radiate from the surface of the mountain at night.
Some of the most delicious varieties of apples grow in this area. Perry Lowe Orchards grows 35 different varieties, including Pink Lady apples, which they’ve grown since 1996. Pink Lady apples are crisp, sweet, and tart—great for eating fresh, dried, or as cider.
While most ciders combine several varieties of apples, Perry Lowe makes a cider from only Pink Lady apples. It’s called a single varietal cider and he also makes single varietal ciders from Honeycrisp and Suncrisp apples. So many varieties of apples thrive in the Brushy Mountains that it’s hard to pick just one. Luckily, many orchards let you taste several at their roadside stands.
“At our place, we actually have a tasting stand. You can imagine, sometimes it takes 20 apples to get somebody what they really like, so we have what we call a little taste, a ‘try before you buy.’ And so we enjoy letting people try apples and see what their favorite apple is,” he says.
It’s an inspiring experience for kids, whether their family goes on an apple tasting road trip or they visit with classmates on a school outing. While Perry Lowe Orchards doesn’t do u-pick for the public, they do invite several schools to tour each season.
“I actually get to do the hayride and get to watch [children] pick apples and that’s very rewarding cause some of the kids are from different places and have never seen an apple on a tree, or even realize that an apple grows on the tree instead of coming off a grocery store shelf,” he says.
Many orchards have roadside stands where you can sip cider and taste apples while looking out at the Brushy Mountain view. “It’s a very unique place, where we’re located. A lot of customers come by and say, you know, I’ve been up in the mountains and I don’t believe their leaves are as pretty. It’s a beautiful place where the leaves are just spectacular usually every fall,” he says. “The Brushy Mountains are a wonderful place to visit and we’d love to see you at our stands, or with other growers too. So come on out to the Brushy Mountains and get a taste of some different type of apples maybe that you never tried before.”
Find more information about orchards in the Brushy Mountains and beyond at www.appalachiangrown.org
Aired: September 4, 2017