From the top of Chickasaw Knob in Edneyville, one can see the valley filled with apple trees between Bearwallow and Sugarloaf mountains. The Lyda family has been growing apples on the knob since the first settlers arrived in Henderson County.
Instead of apples atop the knob, now there are peach trees.
Eddie Lyda’s ancestors were among the first settlers to arrive in Henderson County. On the land they settled was an apple tree. Legend states the tree was started when an Indian passing through the area dropped a seed. The Chickasaw apple and Chickasaw Knob were named for a skirmish said to have taken place in the area between the pioneer settlers and a roving band of Chickasaw Indians.
As he sat beside the fish pond filled with huge tadpoles, Lyda pointed out the old cellar house and spring house across Slick Rock Road. They were built by Doc and John Lyda probably about 150 years ago, he said.
“They were rock masons and laid the rock for a lot of rock buildings around here,” he said. “I bought the old home place and orchard.”
He grows apples and some peaches on about 90 acres of family land. His father, Buck Lyda, grew apples on about 200 acres of land before retiring, he said.
The Lyda family has grown apples in Henderson County for generations. After his father’s retirement, Lyda began planting dwarf trees and selling his apples on the fresh fruit market, mainly at the Farmers Market in Asheville.
About 48 varieties of apples are grown at Apple Haven Orchard.
Lyda grows the new varieties of apples many consumers are demanding and the old varieties that are hard to find.
“I still grow Sheepnose, Hoover and Arkansas Black,” he said. “Limber Twig is a real old, old apple. The old-timers would carry the small apple in their coat pockets to nibble on when they went rabbit hunting.
“Older people will buy them and they don’t care what the price is,” he said. “They’ve got real good flavor. Sheepnose is the only apple I know of that is acid free. It’s a soft apple.”
Most people want hard, firm apples today, he said. The Cameo is one of his best sellers.
About 19 years ago, Lyda began growing peaches. He sells a large and small white peach and two varieties of yellow peaches, plus a white and yellow nectarine.
“Years ago my grandfather had a peach tree in his yard and I asked him if peaches could be grown here,” said Lyda. “He said we can grow peaches here just as good as they can in South Carolina.
“The best place to plant is on high ground above the frost line,” he said. “We can grow prettier and better-tasting peaches than South Carolina because of our mountain air. It puts color and flavor in the peach that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Lyda grows his free-stone peaches and nectarines on about six acres of land at the top of the knobs and mountains.
Peaches cost less in chemicals and spraying than apples.
“It costs more to spray apples because the season is longer,” he said. “More different types of insects harm apples.”
Lyda is up at 5 a.m. to sell his fruit at the Farmers Market in Asheville. The apples are graded, but peaches are taken straight to the market after picking. The peaches don’t need to be graded for size because they are hand thinned.
When the apples are being picked in the fall, he employs seven or eight people to pick the fruit. There are two drivers and five to six people are grading the apples at night.
In addition to the apples, peaches and nectarines, Lyda also sells other fruit and products at the market, such as grapes, molasses, honey, cider, jams and jellies. He puts together various sizes of fruit bags and baskets for the customers.
Lyda said he and other farmers in the county work long, hard hours and have to keep learning and changing.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “You don’t learn it all overnight. I’ve been in it all my life and I’m still learning.”