The Edneys – Cherries and Apples

If Wade Edney can solve the problems of ripe cherries splitting when it rains and hordes of birds gorging themselves on the fruit, he might have a decent crop.
“Our problems are water and birds,” said Edney, whose family has farmed land in Fruitland and Edneyville for generations. The family mostly grows apples.
Edney tried something new in apple country, growing cherry trees. Several apple growers recently planted peach trees, but Edney is the first to try cherries.
The fruit ripens as the sugar content rises. But if it rains with sugar in the cherry, the fruit splits.
But the appearance has no affect on taste.
“They taste just as good,” Edney said. “Appearance is the problem.”
“You have to use them right away when they are cracked or freeze them,” his wife, Sarah, said.
Birds know the cherries taste just as good.
“You have to grow enough for you and the birds,” Edney said. “We put up reflective tape one year, but there is no way to stop them. The birds are more of a problem than I thought they would be. Robins are the worst.”
The Edneys have toured cherry orchards where netting was placed over the trees to keep the birds away, but that solution is expensive.
No other farmer in the area is growing cherry trees in large quantities.
“No one’s done it, so we have nothing to go on,” Sarah Edney said.
There were five varieties in a block of Piney Mountain Orchards. The varieties ripen at different times.
Edney planted dwarf trees that will reach 10 to 12 feet high. The typical cherry tree found in many local yards will reach heights of 30 to 40 feet.
“The dwarf varieties will start bearing faster,” Edney said.
Some of the varieties are a sweet cherry, another sweet cherry is more yellow with a different texture, some varieties produce large cherries with a firmer texture and one is a tart, cooking cherry.
“We went to Washington state to see them out there,” he said.
“We fell in love with them in the cherry orchards,” Sarah Edney said.
Raising cherries is different than apples, Edney said.
“It’s going to be a difficult fruit to do something with,” he said.
Different pesticides and fungicides must be used.
“Actually, you may not have to spray cherries as much as apples,” he said.
Agricultural experts came from Cornell University to look at the Edney’s cherry orchard, one of the first on the East Coast.
“They’re trying to develop a crack-resistant variety,” Edney said. “If we keep trying, maybe they’ll come up with something that will work here.”
Edney is still growing apples.
About five acres produce strawberries and about three to four acres were planted with peach trees. Edney is also growing sweet corn.
“It fills in a gap and gives us a cash flow,” he said. “Retail sales to the public are more profitable than apples.”
Edney encourages residents to buy local produce.
“All of us are trying to grow something,” he said.
Edney grows apples near his family’s old home place on Apple Valley Road, where his grandfather, William C. Edney, first planted apple trees.
Edney, a direct descendant of one of the first settlers in the county, Samuel Edney, learned the apple business as a child. His father, Fred, was an apple grower.
Edney also was named N.C. Apple Grower of the Year in 2002. Edney’s leadership and willingness to try new things contributed to his award.
“He looks at different marketing avenues and grows quality fruit,” said Marvin Owings Jr., agricultural extension agent. “Wade is proactive in the changes necessary in this industry. He’s a true leader in the industry.”
“He’s an extremely good farmer in general,” said fellow apple grower and packer Greg Nix with Apple Wedge Packers in Edneyville. “All I do is grow, pack and sell apples. Wade grows apples, cherries, some vegetables and has started growing strawberries. He does retail and wholesale marketing. It’s very difficult to do that many things and do them all right.”
Sarah Edney also creates pieces of art from their home-grown gourds.
She uses a variety of techniques and materials to turn the raw gourds into pieces of art.  Natural dyes, watercolors, acrylics, woodcarving and pyro-engraving combine to bring out the character of the gourd.
“I let the gourd tell me what it wants to be,” she said.
The Edneys sell their fruit, produce and crafts at a direct market outlet, Piney Mountain Orchards Produce, at 3290 Asheville Highway, off Brookside Camp Road. The market is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April to November. Some of the Edneys handcrafts and fruit can be found also at the Henderson County Curb Market.