After stable sales throughout the pandemic, employees at Schweizer Orchards in St. Joseph said they are seeing even better business in 2021.
“In 2020 the business was really good, and this year, I would have to say it’s probably a tad bit better,” said Stacy Furbee, the sales manager at Schweizer Orchards. “People are wanting to get back to the normal.”
Furbee said that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, the orchard is always busy and that people are still wanting to get outside, go to the pumpkin patch, do the wagon rides on the weekends and just enjoy what the business has to offer.
Furbee said the orchard is very busy from mid-September to the end of October. On a good weekend this fall, she estimates that Schweizer Orchards sees 500 to 600 people on a Saturday alone. She said popular items this year have been colorful Indian corn and specialty pumpkins for decorating.
While some businesses across the country have reported a shortage of pumpkins, Furbee said that wasn’t felt here in St. Joseph.
“We plant all of our own pumpkins,” Furbee said. “We grow all these specialty pumpkins, the big ones all the way down to the little minis. We didn’t have any problem. … Right here in this general area, we did not have a pumpkin shortage, so we’re fine.”
Along with decorating, Furbee said many people have been out picking apples this season.
“Whether they pick one or two apples, they just want to do it just so they have the experience,” Furbee said.
Ninety-year-old Shirley McCahon could be found wheeling a crate full of freshly-picked apples through the orchard, and she said she’s been picking apples from Schweizer Orchards for somewhere close to 70 years.
“They’re good,” McCahon said. “If they haven’t had any fresh off the tree, they don’t know what an apple tastes like.”
McCahon comes up from Kansas City and said she already has been to the orchard twice this season and plans on coming back once more. She said she likes to pick Jonathan Apples to make apple butter, apple pie, apple cake and eat them raw.
But not only does she think fresh apples are better than apples from a store, she said being outside and picking apples fresh off the tree is right up her alley.
“I just like doing it,” McCahon said.
Furbee said the apple and pumpkin harvests are still happening.
“We still have apples to pick; we still have more varieties that aren’t even inside yet. The pumpkins, the patches still have a lot up in there. We’re bringing down more all the time,” Furbee said.
She said the fall shopping usually slows down toward the beginning of November, and around Thanksgiving is when the orchard transitions from pumpkins and apples to fresh Christmas trees and wreaths.
Something that has stood out to Furbee during the 2021 season is the positive attitude from customers.
“We’re just getting a lot more “please” and “thank you’s,” and we appreciate it,” Furbee said. “We’re getting that a lot more this year I’ve noticed, and that is really nice. It just feels good to hear that.”