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Mercier Orchards

Submitted by on May 15, 2011 – 6:49 pmNo Comment

By Susan McKee
The Road Trips Foodie

The fourth generation of Merciers is already at work at the family orchards in north Georgia, the part of the state including the trailing edge of the Appalachian mountains. Started back in 1943 by Bill and Adele Mercier, the original crop was apples (and, yes, they still grow apples. But they’ve added strawberries, cherries, blueberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, and blackberries to the mix.

Your Road Trips Foodie stopped at Mercier Orchards, 8660 Blue Ridge Drive, Blue Ridge, Georgia, last week to see what was in season.

Strawberries! For $6, I could get a basket and head out to pick my own (and, no, there’s no extra charge for the strawberries that ended up in my mouth instead of in that basket). Visitors can also take a ride on a farm wagon through the orchard to see what’s growing. I saw ripening cherries, green blueberries and the beginnings of apples — they grow some 50 varieties.

Adele Mercier, now in her nineties, still comes to work each day in the orchards, but her son, Tim, runs the place (with the help of his wife, their two sons-in-law and a daughter — not to mention the grandkids).

In addition to the fresh fruit in season (both retail and U-pick), the Merciers have a bakery on site that produces some 10,000 fried fruit pies — a regional specialty — each day, along with doughnuts, muffins, cookies and other goodies.

The shelves of the store are filled with fruit syrups, jellies, jams, preserves, cider, juices, chutneys and more. About 70% of what they manufacture goes out wholesale (Whole Foods is one of their customers), and the remainder is sold in their orchard store.

In the works? Hard cider! They’ve got almost all of the permits in place, and will be setting up a tasting room in October.

I did learn a new term on my tour of the orchards. There was talk of “shedding off” as a growth concept for an agricultural concern that needs more space in an old building. You know what happens: you tack a shed on the back and knock down the wall. Need more space, do it again, and again. Yup. Shedding off.

(Photos by Susan McKee)

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