Dawson's Orchards, Inc.
Do you use chemicals?
We follow an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach suggested by Penn State. It combines orchard monitoring, horticultural controls and judicious use of pesticides. In the last few years we have had success with using hand applied pheromone dispensers to disrupt mating of certain insects, eliminating the need for some sprays. The restriction period between spraying and harvesting is strictly adhered to and we are constantly looking for new ways to curb chemical use. Many of the new chemicals are less toxic to humans, but each one controls fewer insects.
When is the best time to view the orchards in bloom?
Peaches, pears and plums bloom around the end of April, and apples in early May. I have seen a peach bud as early as April 1st though, so it depends a lot on the temperature. The peach blossoms are pink while pear and plums bloom white and the apples are tinged with pink. Be sure to put the window down if you're driving by - they smell beautiful!
Why did you cutting so many trees down?
The trees being cut down were planted in the mid 1980s and there are much more efficient planting systems that have been developed since then. We are replanting some of the orchards with newer varieties, such as Honeycrisp and Cameo, and also replacing some of the older trees with newer ones to increase production over the next few years.
Do you grow the watermelon that you sell?
No. We buy truckloads and wholesale them to grocery stores in the area. They are available for purchase on the farm from April to September. #2 grade are often available and #1 grade are always available. Both are very reasonably priced. Be prepared to serve yourself though!
Is the cider pasteurized?
Yes. We only cell cider that is pasteurized. It also has a small amount of preservative in it (less than 1/10th of 1% Potassium sorbate), which gives it a 45 day shelf life from the date of production. Although some customers long for the pure product, it is no longer feasible for us to offer cider that isn't pastuerized.
What are the "metal pots" for in the orchards?
They contain heating oil used to warm the air on nights when frost is a possibility, and are most effective when used with the wind machines.
What are the "wind mills" for?
The two "wind mills" are more formally known as wind machines, and are used for frost protection. They can only be used on calm nights. They mix the warmer air above with the colder air on the ground and can increase the temperature enough to keep the buds from being killed.
Do you grow any fruit organically?
No, we do not. It is a possibilty in the future, although the transient period for soil to become organically certified is 3 years.
Do you hire migrant workers?
Yes. They are an important part of our labor force. In farming, there are normally short periods of time that a lot of workers are needed. For apples, it occurs in July if there is hand thinning or summer pruning, and from September to mid October for picking. There are often high school students available to work in the summer, but not in the fall, so we're grateful to have migrant workers available. We find that a mix of high school students, migrant workers, full-time employees and semi-retired local help seems to keep everything going as needed.
Is the dog friendly?
Yes, Chief (L) was born in December 2005. We "found" him at Mintern's - a German Shepard breeder in Northeast Ohio. He is very friendly, so if you come to visit and he is nearby, just know he will return any affection you show him! He will also show you how much fun he has playing on the farm. By the way - he thinks the road is for him, not traffic, so please keep an eye out. His brother and partner in crime, Trigger (R), was killed this way in the Fall of 2009 and Chief injured himself badly just last September.
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Can't visit us at the Orchard? Find us at the following markets:
Come discover the real meaning of fresh local produce!
May thru Thanksgiving
Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights - 5:30pm
151 Park Rd. McDonald, PA
Route 50, 3 miles south off the Bridgeville exit (#54) off I-79
June thru October
St. James Parking Lot