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Apples ready as Tehachapi harvest begins

TEHACHAPI — Apple lovers rejoice: Tehachapi's apple season is underway. And although there are fewer growers selling apples directly to the public, farmer John Pulford of Pulford Appletree Orchard reports that this year's crop appears larger than last year's, despite some loss to squirrels and deer.

Pulford and his wife, Becky, began growing apples in Tehachapi in 1981, planting at their current location in 1994 with the first harvest in 1996. They now grow 19 different varieties and this year expect to have apples at least through October and perhaps into November. 

The harvest began with Galas and picking of Jonathan, Jonagold and Braeburn varieties began later in the week. Unfortunately, squirrels and deer wiped out the Honeycrisp, Winesap and Arkansas Black varieties.

Other varieties at Pulford's, as they ripen, include Ruby Jon, Melrose, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Empire, Spur Gold Blush, Mutsu, Granny Smith, Little Lady, Rome Beauty, Fuji and Red Cameo.

Pulford is not a U-pick orchard. Instead, apples are picked when they are ready and stored in a cooler to be sold to customers. However, 1 acre of the orchard is opened for picking by visiting schoolchildren. Field trips to the orchard are popular and include a tour, a chance to pick apples to take home and education about farming.

A shop at the orchard offers a number of apple products, including syrup, cookbooks and other apple-themed products. Pies are available Thursdays through Sundays, as long as they last.

Good advice for visiting Pulford's and the other farms is to bring cash for purchases and because of continued concerns about COVID-19, watch for signs providing direction regarding masks and be prepared to maintain your distance.

Operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at the orchard, 19440 Highline Road in Tehachapi. More information about Pulford's is available online at pulfordappletreeorchard.com.

KNAUS APPLE RANCH

Perhaps the oldest currently operating apple operations in Tehachapi is Knaus Apple Ranch. It has been family-owned and operated since 1970, specializing in Red and Golden Delicious apples.

Located at 19042 Cherry Lane (corner of Cherry Lane and Tucker Road), Alice Knaus and her family offer U-pick or "we pick" apples. She said this year's crop will be smaller than in years past because there are fewer trees.

Knaus opens when the apples are ready and this year that starts Thursday. The orchard will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. More information is available online at knausappleranch.wordpress.com.

KOLESAR’S ORCHARD

Another longtime apple grower is John Kolesar, who offers U-pick of Empire, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathan, Fujis and Rome apples. The orchard is located on Highline Road just west of Robin Lane.

Kolesar's is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday through Sunday, operating now until the apples are gone. Fujis and Rome apples are expected to be ready about two weeks after other varieties. Updates are available online at facebook.com/kolesarsorchard.

OTHER FARMS

Other Tehachapi area farms growing apples — or offering fresh produce direct to consumers — include:

Brite Creek Farm, corner of Highline and Banducci roads, operates a farmers market open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Dries Farms, 22455 Lumas Lane, offerings include pumpkins and lavender. Visit facebook.com/DriesFarms for more information.

Ha's Apple Farm sells jams, jellies and dried apples online and at farmers markets but according to its website will not sell at its farm this year. More information at hasapplefarm.com.

Moessner Farms, 25000 Bear Valley Road, sells fresh produce, jams, jellies, pastries and more at the farm and at farmers markets. Visit moessnerfarm.com for more information.

Tangleweed Farms, 21192 Old Town Road, currently offers succulents and pumpkins. A pumpkin patch will open on Oct. 1. Head to facebook.com/tangleweedfarms for more details.

TEHACHAPI APPLE FESTIVAL

Although some local growers may not offer apples directly to consumers at their farms, they may participate in farmers markets. The City of Tehachapi's Farmers Market wraps up its season downtown this Thursday and Sept. 30 from 4 to 7 p.m.

And the Tehachapi Apple Festival, a victim of the pandemic last year, will have apples and apple products — including apple pie, turnovers and even apple nachos.

The festival this year will be held Oct. 16 and 17 and will include an apple-pie-eating contest on Saturday and an apple-pie-baking contest on Sunday. In cooperation with the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce, this year's festival will include a carnival.

For more information, visit tehachapiapplefestival.com.

Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of Tehachapi News, The Californian’s sister publication. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email at claudia@claudiaelliott.net.