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Take a trip to Carver's orchard for a real treat

(c)2012 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL

The Carver family gathered on the floor of their apple house on Cosby in October.
From left are Kevin Weatherby, Danielle Weatherby, Irene and Danny Ray Carver,
and their other dajughter, Stacey.
Published: 11:43 PM, 10/26/2012 Last updated: 11:43 PM, 10/26/2012
 

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

Halloween night on Wednesday should still be well illuminated by the Hunters full moon over our hometown on Monday night, as cooler weather settles over us like cobwebs.

Nothing says fall is here better than the colors and juicy crunch of apples, and you can find them by the thousands at Carver's apple house on Cosby, if you don't mind the crowd of October tourists that I witnessed on a weekday visit.

One of the first families that talked with me was from Valdosta, Georgia. David Adams said he had been coming to the Kyle Carver-founded orchard for decades. Adam's parents, Randall and Sarah Adams, said that they been stopping by for the past 50 years. Last year they bought a case of sorghum because the mountain variety is so much different than what they have in South Georgia.

You can always find the Carver family and, of course, the Williamsons, Irene Carver's family, at work every day and into the night. Danny Ray Carver exclaimed, "She's killing herself," because Irene had been at the restaurant until 11 p.m. or later. Mid week and mid afternoon the restaurant was still crowded with people loving the catfish and chicken. The apple fritters with cinnamon flavored thick apple butter for dipping suited me. I noticed the Carvers' popular fried apple pies had already sold out. Better arrive early to buy these.

Just as you will find visitors from 40 or 50 years ago, to a time the small apple shed was on the Cosby Highway, you will find some workers who have been there long enough to have helped Marjorie (Fancher) Carver, Kyle's widow. She died in Sept. 2002. Then they worked for Danny Ray. One of those old timers is Mayford Lunsford. He along with Robert Evans were sorting and washing bright green pippin apples. A helper, who might be Danny Ray on the forklift, brings in large wooden bins full of apples to dump into wash water. Then the apples travel up a conveyor for sorting into bushel baskets.

Several workers, and all local folks, are on the floor helping customers and bringing in more to sell. One of those was Kelvin Williams. I also saw Judy Shelton and Kitty Whitlock, who has worked on and off since 1970 and continuous since 1997. More attractive than the apples are displays of gourds and pumpkins that seemed to light up the inside of the barn-sized apple house. You will also find more than apples, including produce, apple butter, apple cider pressed and processed right there, and unusual foods such as fig jam. There's a wells stocked candy shop nearby too.

Danny Ray took some time from work to talk about the 2012 crop. If you haven't heard, most of the major growers, such as in Michigan, lost the entire apple crop because of an early freeze. The further north you go from the mountains of Tenn., the more the orchards were damaged. "We've been blessed," he said, explaining that there was only mild damage on Cosby. He has also benefited because many of those northern packers require thousands and tens of thousands of apples to justify cranking up the packing house. They had some apples and decided to sell these outright to a few buyers such as Danny Ray. "We've got plenty of fruit" and in many varieties. He speculates that one of the reasons Carver's orchards escape a lot of damage is the huge variety of apples they grow. This didn't happen accidentally, as Kyle Carver spent a lot of time acquiring, grafting, and expanding apple varieties. Sixty years later it has paid off.

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