Arrington family shows how to squeeze the last drop from an apple crop
At Barber Orchard, the Arrington family has mastered the concept of value-added, cutting out the need to sell any of their product wholesale.
For years the family has raised apples, and sold many from their roadside stand near the Balsam exit on U.S. 23-74 at 2855 Old Balsam Road in Waynesville.
Last year, their operation changed significantly when they added a $250,000 state-of-the-art processing facility that allowed virtually all of the the cull crop to be turned into cider right on the family property.
“Basically, we’re taking our cull apples and getting a lot more value,” said Bennie Arrington, who operates the family orchard with family members. “Juice apples are $1.75 a bushel, so we’re using them and getting as much out of them as if they weren’t culls.”
Eating apples sold at Barber Fruit Stand sell for around $22 a bushel, depending on variety. Culls are the apples with a bruise or blemish that could diminish its appeal to a buyer. These are the apples customarily used to make cider, juice and juice concentrate.
Arrington said the orchard has been making apple cider for decades — ever since he was in high school.
“This is actually our fourth cider set-up if you count the old hand cranked one,” he said, noting how he learned to make cider in high school. The newest setup can sort, wash, press and produce up to 300 gallons of cider an hour.
“We make so much now we don’t need a wholesaler,” he said.
During the season peak, Arrington and his son, Stephen, make cider twice a week. Most of the cider is sold through the roadside stand, but some is sold to restaurants, including to the Biltmore Estate where it is used for an apple cider pork chop entrée.
The facility directly across from the fruit stand houses not only the sparkling clean processing operation, but a warehouse and a cold storage facility where up to 50,000 bushels of apples are kept at 32 degrees — just above the 28-degree freezing temperature for apples.
Barber Orchard has 20 varieties of apples, including popular ones such as Mount Pippin, Cameo, Fuji, Arkansas Black, Staymans, Mutsu, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Gala, Empire, Cortland, Rome, Red Delicious, Pink Lady and Golden Delicious apples.
Not only are the apples available by the bag or bushel, but an adjoining bakery tempts most visitors into sampling an apple turnover, fritter, cookie or donut.
Those who don’t take an apple cake home with them can have them shipped, or better yet, order them as Christmas gifts and get their shopping list filled early.
Visitors can call 456-3598 or stop by the fruit stand until mid-December, when the operation shuts down for the year and reopens once harvest begins the following year.