Deep Roots

Reed Orchard has survived
the decades since the 1800s

Margie Reed continues to operate the business
with her son-in-law Thomas

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(October 2011) – Reed’s Orchard in Saluda Township, Ind., has been in the same family for generations. So it is only natural that the farm brings out a strong sense of tradition in those who lovingly tend the acres of peach trees that dot the hill overlooking the Ohio River.
Today, 87-year-old Margie Reed oversees the farm her husband’s grandfather, Bill Reed, founded back in the 1800s, along with her son-in-law, Wes Thomas, who joined the operation in 1970. Now Thomas’ children, Cory and Maggie Rose, are learning the intricacies of caring for the trees and running the harvests.
And when one considers the quality of fruit necessary to sustain such a legacy, perhaps it is only natural that the orchard has become a strong family tradition among customers as well.

Margie Reed

Photo by Lela Bradshaw

Margie Reed, 87, has continued
running the family orchard business
that her husband’s grandfather
founded in the 1800s.

The farm is located on Hwy. 62, south of Hanover. Thomas said that when people pull up to the farm during the July and August harvest, it is “not uncommon to have four generations of a family get out of the same car – a lot of people come for years and years.”
While the farm has the consistency of generations of family ties, both in ownership and customer base, the Reeds have been willing to adapt to changing times. Reed reflects that “Everything’s changed” since she married Corbett Reed and first joined the farm.
“When I came over here, they were pulling the sprayer with horses,” she recalls, “It wasn’t long before they were pulling it with a tractor.”
One change that proved very popular with customers was the Reeds’ shift from hiring workers to pick the fruit to allowing buyers to come and pick what they liked. After hearing complaints of bruised peaches and finger marks on the fruit, the Reeds began opening the orchard to those who wanted the chance to experience the harvest for themselves.
“When we started the ‘pick your own,’ it wasn’t the norm,” Thomas explains. But the lure of coming out to the beautiful orchard and selecting the perfect fruit quickly became part of the attraction for customers who come from as far away as Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
Reed notes that the orchard gets many visitors who live farther north as in their area the climate is starting to get a bit too cold to consistently produce peaches. The farm has a loyal following and customers keep in close touch with Reed as the fruit begins to ripen. As the lure of the orchard is providing perfect, tree-ripened peaches, it is important to show up at just the right time to get the best pick.
Reed says that one morning this past summer she went outside at the farm’s 7 a.m. opening to find more than 70 cars lined up, with people ready and waiting to take advantage of the short season.
Thomas notes that “People really like the idea of buying a tree-ripened peach.” Reed points out that most of the peaches found in stores have been picked before they are ripe in order to avoid spoiling. She recalls a recent trip to the grocery where she picked up a beautiful looking peach up off the shelf and thought, “If I could paint a picture of it.”
However, the lovely fruit was also “hard as a rock,” she says sadly. The true test of any peach must surely be how it tastes.
Reed and Thomas credit a combination of family nature and natural landscape with the longstanding success of the orchard. The family brought a good dose of stubbornness and determination to the hilltop farm and never shied away from the hard work their chosen crop required.
Thomas explains that “We feel like we’re in an ideal location.” He points out that “the ground is really suitable for growing a good peach” with “good, well-drained soil.”
Both Reed and Thomas point to the river as one secret to the orchard’s productivity – the heat that rises off the water can make the one or two degree difference between a harvest ruined by frozen blossoms and a a full crop that survives the chill.
The combination of hard work behind the scenes and favorable ground tricked some people into believing peaches were a simple crop. “When we first started doing the ‘you pick,’ people thought there just wasn’t anything to it,” Reed says. Customers began asking to buy trees from the Reeds in hopes of recreating the magic in their own backyards.
However, the aspiring growers soon learned that there was much more to raising perfect peaches than watching the trees do all the work. “They got discouraged quickly,” Reed recalls, when faced with the reality of spraying the trees every 10 days from March to July to keep the pests away.
“They find out fast enough,” she notes. She believes that most people “don’t have the nerve” to face the harsh realities of growing. Too many things can threaten a crop – a sudden windstorm, hungry bugs, or just the endless supply of deer that seem determined to get to the peaches before the people do.
Yet every summer the rewards come when the peaches begin to ripen. Even after years of work raising the trees and picking the fruit, Thomas still says, “I never get tired of eating on them.”

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