Goodness Grows In North Carolina
Apple Outline

Association Name Commodity History Regional Information Production
Packaging Shipping Buying Nutritional Information

I. Association Name NC Apple Association

A. Commodity Represented

Apples; North Carolina ranks seventh in apple production in the United States. North Carolina has over 300 commercial apple operations comprised of over 14,000 bearing acres of apple orchards.

B. Types of Commodity

The four major varieties which make up the bulk of North Carolina's production are: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty and Stayman. Over 40 other varieties are grown on a limited basis. New cosmopolitan varieties are Empire, Fuji, Gala, Gold, Jonagold and Mutzu. Antique varieties are still available at roadside stands throughout the area are: Arkansas Black, Grimes, Limber Twig, Wolf River, Cortland, Hoover and Jonathan.

Roadside Stand Directory Packers/Shippers

C. Is there a National Promotion Month for the Commodity? When?

October is National Apple Month and September is North Carolina's Apple Month.

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II. Commodity History

A. North Carolina Background

1. Is the crop originally from NC or did it originate elsewhere? Where?

Apples are indigenous to North Carolina and the farming of apples has been tracked back to ancient times. Experts estimate that the number of varieties that have existed from 5,000 to 20,000.

2. When was it brought to NC?

It was brought to North Carolina in the 1700's.

3. How was it brought to NC and by whom?

It was brought to North Carolina by early settlers. It is noted that in Henderson County the First European settler there set out trees in the Fruitland area.

4. Was it brought to a specific region? Is this the same region in which it is now mainly grown?

Henderson County is still one of the main regions were apples are grown in North Carolina.

B. Uses

1. How is the product used?

It is used in cooking and as snacks (raw, baked, sliced, sauce, juice)

2. Has today's use changed from its original use?


3. If yes, how was it originally used and why was there a shift in use?

Not applicable

C. Industry Changes

1. How has technology changed the industry? What are some of these improvements/changes?

In 1950 modern equipment such as speed sprayers and automatic power pruners were first used. Before this all work was done by hand.

In 1959 the Gerber Production Company came to Henderson County. Gerber practically revolutionized the harvesting of apples in and around the area by introducing the idea of harvesting apples in bins and using fork lifts to handle the boxes in loading them on to trucks. The standard 20 bushel bin or box was introduced by Gerber and is now used by all growers in the area.

1959 also brought about the first cold storage facility to the area. Growers got together to form the Western North Carolina Apple Growers Cooperative where they shared the packing and storage facilities.

2. How have the uses for the product changed over the years?

The uses over the years has remained the same, for it is still used in eating and cooking.

3. Has consumption/use of the product increased/decreased? Why?

The consumption of the product has increased due to better transportation and storage methods. Also due to increased population and the excellent food value they provide, apples have enjoyed a strong consumer backing.

D. Future Outlook

1. How is the industry changing currently?

Newer techniques are being developed as research is done to develop harmless ways to maintain good quality in apples. Also newer varieties are being developed and tested.

2. Are there any future projects that would change how the industry is maintained?

Research is going on all the time to develop newer varieties and safer methods of growing them.

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III. Regional Information

A. Region

1. Where in the state is the commodity grown?

Apples are grown in the western part of the state (Mountain Area)

2. If more than one location, where is it the most abundant? The least abundant?

Apples are produced in five areas of the state, which are:
Haywood Area: Haywood, Jackson and Macon counties
Mt. Mitchell Area: Avery, McDowell, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties
Northwest Area: Alexander, Ashe, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin counties
South Mountain Area: Burke, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties
Henderson County Area: Henderson and Polk Counties (65-70% are grown in this area)

3. Why can't it be grown in another section of the state? Or why the difference in production from area to area?

Apples need a number of cold temperature hours to set bloom in the winter and cooler temperatures in the summer to provide the good climate for commercial growers.

4. When is the growing season?

Growing an apple takes all year and there is always something going on in the orchard!

The Four Seasons of Growing Apples


During the winter apple trees have no leaves, no flower and no apples. Just like you sleep every night to store up energy, apple trees sleep all winter to store energy to make apples for the fall.

While the trees are dormant, pruning begins. Limbs are sawed off and clipped to allow maximum sunlight into the growing structure. Pruning allows the tree to produce larger, better colored, higher quality and more valuable fruit. Equipment repairs and maintenance occupies the days too cold or stormy to be outdoors, through the winter months.


In the spring apple trees begin waking up. Leaves start growing, reaching for the sun. Fragrant, sweet-smelling white flower blossoms pop out. Honeybees love to visit the sweet-smelling blossoms, spreading pollen from flower to flower. When blossoms fall off the pollinated flowers, baby apples begin to grow in their place. Each blossom has to be pollenated in order for an apple to form. The apples keep growing all summer.

The pace of the farm quickens. The brush from pruning is picked up or mulched back into the orchard soil. Grass that has grown tall is mowed to reduce competition for nutrients and habitat for pests.


During the summer months limbs must be tied up or weighted down to spread the young tree into the perfect shape. By the end of summer mowing is completed and bins (the large bulk boxes picking buckets are emptied into) are positioned around the orchard. Ladders are repaired and the harvest logistics are carefully planned. Storage room must be cleaned and their refrigeration systems tested.


In the fall the apples are fully grown and ripened. When picking begins in August, there is a constant buzz of activity until the last of the fruit comes off the trees near the end of October. Most of our nation's crop is picked by hand to prevent bruising. Extra harvest workers are hired both locally and from other areas and countries to help get the crop in on time. During harvest time, some farms invite the public to come for the fun of picking their own apples (PYO). When the harvest is complete, it is time to prepare again for winter.

B. Climate

1. What kind of weather does the commodity like?

Apples prefer warm days and cool nights.

2. Is there a specific condition the commodity needs (full sun, shade, etc.)?

Apples like to have full sun.

3. Are there ideal temperatures the commodity needs?

Apples are known as a deciduous tree and they require a dormant season. They require a period of time where the temperatures get below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

C. Soil

1. What type of soil works best with this commodity? Why? Is it rich in a specific nutrient, etc.?

Apples need well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

2. Is there an ideal temperature for the soil?

There is not an ideal temperature needed for the soil.

3. Do certain soil conditions increase crop production? If yes, what are they?

Soil for apples needs to be of moderate to high fertility with adequate soil providing enough moisture to the tree during growing season.

D. Weather Conditions

1. In emergency weather conditions what precautions are taken? Are precautions usually preventative (advance) or reactive (as it occurs)?

In early season when apples are in bud and when they are very small, windmills and irrigation are used to protect them. In extremely dry weather some frowers who are equipped use irrigation.

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IV. Production

A. Production Steps

1. When are seeds planted?

Since apples do not grow true to their seeds, young trees that have been grown in a nursery from cuttings are transplanted to the orchard site. These trees have a desired fruit variety grafted onto a root-stock selected for characteristics for size and vigor. Some apple trees planted today are on dwarf stock, allowing for more efficient use of valuable land and labor.

2. What is the estimated time before sprouts appear?

Not applicable

3. How long generally before the crop is ready to be harvested?

The average apple tree will bear fruit in three years, with full production coming in eight to ten years. A fully-producing apple tree may grow up to 20 bushel boxes of apples a year. The dwarf trees have a shorter bearing season.

4. Once the crop is taken from the ground where does it go? Is it stored somewhere before it is ready for use? Or does it get packaged right away? If stored, what is it stored in and why?

Once fruit is picked (usually by hand into buckets) it is emptied into large bulk boxes which are positioned around the orchard. From here apples may be placed into a refrigerated storage room until they are ready to be washed, packed and made ready for delivery.

Apples stored in a commercial refrigerated storage will keep for 4-6 months, but for long term storage up to 12 months , growers use CA storage. Apples for CA are picked at their peak of internal quality and condition. They are rushed into a CA storage the day they are picked. The oxygen level is lowered to 1.5-3% , temperature is reduced to 30-32 degrees Fahrenheit, carbon dioxide levels are monitored and controlled. This puts the fruit to sleep (stops the ripening process) until ready for use.

B. Production Materials

1. Is there any special equipment used during the whole production process? What are they?

Tractor, sprayers, mowing machines for grass, Fork lifts for loading and big truck for hauling the apples from the orchard are all used.

2. How was the production process handled before technological developments? What types of machines, if any, were used in the process?

Hand sprayers were pulled by a team of horses and orchards were mowed by a horse drawn cutter or by hand. Apples were picked in bushel boxes and carried to packing houses before forklifts and trucks.

3. Are pesticides used in crop production? What are the most common types?

In spring, growers using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) start monitoring the weather while hanging various insect traps to collect data for an annual spray program. Temperature, humidity and rainfall are recorded in orchard weather stations to predict disease outbreaks and identify effective management tools. Both harmful and beneficial insects are counted to determine spray schedules. Spraying is done only when needed to protect the tree and fruit. When used, spraying is done to protect apples from insects and disease.

C. Grading

1. Is there an inspection that the product must go through before being packaged/sold?

Apples must be inspected before they can be sold.

2. Is the inspection conducted by county, state, or national officials?

Inspections are done on a state level with national guidelines.

3. What agency is responsible for the grading/testing and setting the standards?

The inspection is done by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services based upon United States Department of Agriculture requirements.

4. How is the grading done? Is it for each individual piece, or per field, per farm, etc.?

A random number of apples are chosen and graded.

5. Give a basic breakdown of the scale used and what it means

There are two grades for apples with Grade No. 1 being the best. Apples are graded on thier size, their defects and their ripeness.

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V. Packaging

A. Is the product usually sold fresh, frozen, dried, etc.?

Apples are sold in a variety ways: fresh, canned, bottled as juice and dried.

B. If product is sold in a variety of ways what is the most common in NC?

40% of North Carolina's apple crop is marketed as fresh product while 60% is utilized in the processing industry mainly as apple sauce and juice.

C. Is the product packaged? If yes, how?

Fresh apples are packaged mainly in boxes and bags while processed apples tend to be bottled, bagged or canned.

D. Why is it done this way? Is it economical, prevents bruising, industry standard or for shipping purposes, etc.?

Boxing fresh apples helps prevent bruising and is an economical way to ship bulk product. Processed product is canned or bottled due to various manufacturing companies packaging styles and marketing purposes (how a company wants is apple chips, apple juice, etc. to look in the stores).

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VI. Shipping

A. Distribution

1. What is the most common method of distribution in your industry?

Apples are processed for slices and juice, packed for fresh market and also sold at roadside stands and pick-your-own operations.

2. Is the product sold mainly to retail, foodservice, wholesale, specialty outlets or a variety of outlets? What is the most common?

Apples are mostly sold at the wholesale and retail food outlets.

3. Does the product go to one place, then another before ending up on a grocery store shelf or restaurant? If yes, where does it go?

Apples are usually sold from the farm to the wholesaler or broker who then sells it to distributors (people who take product from one place to another) or to retail outlets (grocery stores).

4. Is the commodity exported? Domestically, internationally?

Some apples are exported internationally. The majority of apples go to other states for fresh and processed marketing.

B. Transporting

1. How is the commodity normally transported (from farm to retail outlet)?

Apples are mainly transported in trains or trucks.

2. Does the transportation vehicle require special features? (Refrigeration, etc.)

Whether it is a train or truck, the area that the fresh apples are stored in must be refrigerated to keep the apples fresh. Processed apples are dumped in truck beds and do not require refrigeration.

3. Have methods of transportation changed over the years? (Before automobiles, etc. how was it transported?) Or has method of transportation stayed the same? And if so, how is it done?

Many years ago apples were transported to nearby towns by a horse and wagon. In fact, the first 150 years of the apple industry was very slow due to poor means of transportation. During the 1890's and early 1900's farmers began hauling apples and other produce to nearby Greenville, Spartanburg and other South Carolina counties for sale. After the first railway was built in the early part of the twentieth century, that became a viable way to ship apples out of North Carolina counties.

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VII. Buying

A. Product

1. What is the product used for? Are there different uses?

Apples are used for cooking or eating raw. One should know that an apple's weight determines its yield.

One pound of apples=2 large, 3 medium or 4 small apples
One pound of apples yields 3 cups of diced fruit or 2 = cups peeled, sliced fruit.
Two pounds of apples=enough for a 9-inch pie

2. When purchasing/inspecting the commodity (at the store) how do you know it is fresh?

Look for apples that are free of bruises and firm to touch. Larger apples should be very firm, since they mature faster than small apples and become soft sooner.

3. Is there a trick to buying and finding ripe/fresh product? (Smell, thumping, shaking, color etc.)

Brownish, russetted areas on the skin, usually caused by weather, mar appearance somewhat but don't affect the flavor.

4. What are the storage techniques for the crop after being brought home?

Care must be taken to store apples at home to keep them at their best. Keep small quantities of apples in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, away from strong smelling foods. The plastic bag helps the apples retain moisture and prevents shriveling. Refrigerated storage life is one to two weeks, depending upon the variety and the maturity of the apple. Larger quantities may be stored in a cool, dark, airy place such as a garage, basement or cellar. Line the box or container with plastic and cover the apples with a damp towel. Apples stored at room temperature will soften about 10 times faster than if refrigerated.

B. Labels

1. Is the product required to carry a label?

If the apples are packaged at a packing house, labels are required.

2. Is there an industry standard for the label, or is it individualized for each company/producer/grower?

There is an industry standard for apple labels, so any North Carolina apple that you buy will contain the same label.

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VIII. Nutritional Information

A. Food Pyramid

1. What group of the food pyramid does the commodity fall into?


2. Is there a recommended daily allowance of this? What is it?

Two to four

B. What nutrients are found in the commodity? How is this helpful?

Apples are rich in pectin, high in potassium and low in sodium and fat-free.

Apples help in three major health areas. An apple reduces the chance of cavities by cleaning the teeth and massaging the gums. Apples also aid constipation and diarrhea by helping to correct them. An apple is your tummy's best friend...its pectin and mild acids help aid digestion, and its bulk peps up the whole system. An average apple has about 85 calories and no cholesterol making it an ideal snack for those watching their weight. It is bulk-producing so it satisfies your hunger while its natural sugars give you quick energy.

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Other Links:
The Little Red House Story
The Apple House Poem
The Apple Orchard Field Trip Tips
Official NCDA&CS Markets Apple Page