Queen of the Fruits
Early settlers, like HenryO, planted a few apple trees to supplement their subsistence food growing. Some of the Casco farmers may have brought seedling fruit trees with them from the fruit areas of Ohio or New York. By the 1880s many of the incidental orchards became the means of paying off the farm mortgage and providing some comfort and independence. There were ready markets for the fruit in Milwaukee and Chicago. During the summer months there were daily boat trips from Glenn and South Haven to these markets. Peaches were packed in baskets and apples in barrels. Fruit was shipped and sold fresh. It was not until the 1920s that commercial canning was started when Marc Hutchinson organized the Fennville Canning Company. This became Michigan Fruit Canners, Inc. in 1927.
Legend has it that French traders found Indians munching on small tasteless peaches. Peach trees were first cultivated in the area around 1780 at the St. Joseph Trading Post on the river a mile from Lake Michigan. In Casco, peaches were first planted in 1869 and by 1880 thousands of bushels were being produced. Some farmers had 2,000 to 2,500 trees. Peaches were sold through wholesale brokers. Farmers were given a rubber stamp to identify the destination for their peach baskets.
Up until the early 1900s big profits were made on peaches, "The Queen of The Fruits". Then the peach bubble burst. First diseases started appearing (the yellows, curl leaf and the little peach). Next the quality and quantity decreased because soil fertility was not maintained. Then the disastrous freeze of October 10th, 1906, killed practically every peach tree in SW Michigan. Only farmers having the most favorable locations for growing peaches attempted to replant their orchards. The growing of fruits and vegetable is still a prominent piece of the economy in Casco Township.
At The Farm (July 15, 2009)
Brother Allan is preparing for the 2009 peach harvest. The sweet and sour cherries are winding down as the peaches ripen. "The Queen of The Fruits" will be available for the July 25/26 weekend and through the end of August. Marketing the peach crop today is different than the 1880s and 90s but yet the same. Most is sold fresh and consumed by people from the same market areas. Peaches are picked up at the farm by retail farm markets, retail customers and u-pickers. A small portion of the crop is sent to processing companies.
The Evans (Mother's side) Family Reunion was held last weekend. The farm kids have gotten their chickens inspected and will be at the County Fair next week with their chickens. If you get over to the South Haven area stop at the retail building (109th and 64th) for some of the ripe stuff. I plan to start selling my brother's peaches to the Marshall Farm Market July 25th. Thanks for checking the blog.