Edneyville apple growers who kept the apple industry viable and innovative in Henderson County and influenced a generation of farmers were named the Southeastern Apple Growers of the Year a few years ago.
Members of the association, from states throughout the Southeast, broke from tradition at a convention in Asheville and honored the three partners of North State Orchards.
William Enloe, his brother, Boyce, and brother-in-law, Bob Lancaster, persevered in the apple business for more than 65 years and are still influencing today’s apple growers.
“They were the most influential people in my life for the apple business,” said Kenny Barnwell.
The Enloes and Lancaster put the first computerized apple color sorter in the county into their packing house and were the first to use other innovative and modern technologies.
“They were innovators on the front edge of the industry,” Barnwell said. “They are the growers in this county whom the rest of us look to as a guide.
“They are incredible people who have done more than anyone could possibly believe in this business,” Barnwell said. “They gave us the blueprint, showing us the way. They have weathered the storms.”
The partners are not only leaders in the apple industry, but community leaders.
Lancaster coached a youth baseball team through his church, Mount Moriah Baptist. He was also a member of the U.S. Tennis Association, winning state tournaments playing with the Henderson County YMCA for about 35 years.
William Enloe, a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, serves his community in numerous capacities. He was the fifth Eagle Scout from Troop 605 and served in many roles throughout the years with the troop. He was a member and leader with the Edneyville Grange for more than 50 years and worked with the Edneyville Community Center Association.
The grower received the 2003 Outstanding Alumnus Award from N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Alumni and Friends. A 1955 graduate of NCSU, he was recognized for excelling at growing apples and for his service to the community and the apple industry. Enloe is a lifetime member of the N.C. Apple Growers Association and was inducted in 2000 into the WNC Hall of Fame for his innovative work developing apple varieties and marketing, grading and cold storage techniques.
His son, Alan, died Feb. 20, 2004, after a persistent and determined battle with muscular dystrophy.
“Even when he was working through the loss of his son, he still carried on,” Barnwell said.
“He (Alan) helped run North State until he passed away,” his father said.
Lifetime in apples
The orchards tended by the Enloes and Lancaster grew from a small number of acres worked by Enloe’s grandfather, William Nesbitt. The orchards recently totaled almost 200 acres.
Lancaster’s father, Paul, was a vegetable and dairy farmer. His son, Pat, followed him in the apple business and owns Grandad’s Apples direct market on U.S. 64 East.
The partners grew up in the close-knit Edneyville community. They formed the North State Orchard partnership in 1964.
“You have to like farming to be good at it,” William Enloe said.
Today’s apple industry is different than when the family first began, he said.
“Back then, you put time and effort in the crop, you could sell it,” he said. “Now, you spend a good part of time and effort in meeting government regulations and inspections.”
When the partners began the packing house, everything was done by hand.
“Now, we try to do as much as we can without hands,” he said.
Once, an apple grower could make a living with a smaller volume of fruit.
“Now, it takes 20 times as much volume and you’re struggling to make it,” Enloe said.
The partners are successful despite changes, partly because they foresaw the changes and stayed on top of new technologies.
“I could see we were going to have to change,” Enloe said. “Change meant doing things with machines. There were changes in the demand for the product.”
In the early years, farmers could produce a crop and if there was a late freeze or hail damage, “the family could tighten their belts, start over,” Enloe said.
“Now, the cost of producing the crop is so huge it’s almost impossible to start over and produce another crop,” he said.
The apple growers stay in the business because they love the land and farming.
“I don’t want my land to go to asphalt and septic tanks,” Enloe said. “That’s my main objective in hanging on.”