How Apple Orchard Farm is coping with these difficult days
Chuncky the quarter horse and Art Duckworth at Apple Orchard Farm near Stanley. Photo by Alan Hodge
By Alan Hodge
It’s no secret that small businesses of all types have been dealing with a variety of challenges during recent weeks and that includes farms large and small.
Art Duckworth has been operating his Apple Orchard Farm at 640 Mariposa Rd. near Stanley since 1972. He owns 13 acres and has 65 acres acres of family land available. Duckworth is a seasoned and scientific farmer who raises black Angus cattle, Tamworth Berkshire hogs, and keeps bees. He sells the beef, pork, and honey from his home.
Duckworth’s farming credentials are many. A few include being a NC Certified meat handler and NC Certified beekeper. He won Farmer of the Year for Gaston County 2012 and was one of the top five finalist for that designation at the state level. He also served on the Farm Bureau for 20 years.
The current COVID19 situation has changed the way Duckworth does business with his customers.
His operation is a NC Certified farm with voluntary biosecurity protocols.
“I used to let my regular customers come in the house and select their meat or honey,” he said. “Now, they call me in advance and I meet them in the driveway. They tell me what they want and I go inside, get it, bring it out to their car, and away they go. I am taking every precaution.”
His reputation as a producer of top quality meat and honey means he has a broad customer base.
“My customers call me constantly wanting meat,” he says.
The demand for meat is huge these days and sometimes grocery shelves are bare.
Drawing on his experience as a farmer and former adjunct professor of economics at Gardner-Webb University, Duckworth explained how COVID19 is impacting the meat market.
“First, contrary to what the news says, there is not a shortage of meat,” he said. “The shortage of meat in stores is because of panic buying and the fact that suppliers can’t keep up with demand.”
Duckworth has his beef and pork processed by Mays Meats in Taylorsville.
“Right now they are backed up,” he said. “Hundreds of small farmers are scheduling to have their meat processed to fill their own freezers.”
Duckworth said another factor slowing the march of meat from farm to stores to tables is because the meat cutters have to practice social distancing on the processing line.
“They can’t process the meat as fast as they used to,” he said. “They have to stay spaced out.”
For Duckworth, and other farmers, that means the wait to get their own meat processed will be a while.
“It will be August before I can get a steer processed and January for hogs,” he said.
Added to that is when deer season opens up, processors will be taking care of that product as well.
Duckworth advises people to be patient about the meat situation.
“There will be hiccups in the food chain for several months,” he said. “The food chain is delicate. The distribution system fragile.”
On a brighter note, Duckworth has plenty of honey available.
“People are stockpiling honey too,” he said.
Even though he’s cutting meat production back from what he used to do, Duckworth still enjoys running his farm and seeing his customers.
“They come from places like Winston-Salem, Rutherfordton, and Spartanburg,” he said. “They tell me they trust me. The bottom line is, we do it right.”
Want to know more about Apple Orchard Farm? Call 704-718-4923 or email [email protected]