Know Your Food: Phillip Crunican of Crunican Orchards

To celebrate Local Food Week 2023, we thought it would be great to highlight local food producers who participated in our Know Your Food event last fall. For a summary of the event, see our previous blog post

Panelist and Apple Farmer Phillip Crunican arrived at Know Your Food with over 100 years farming experience in his genes.

While apples are the main product of the Crunican farm now, it was once a full-farm operation, with field crops and livestock. In 1910, Phillip’s grandfather planted their first apple trees on five acres of land. Before introducing motorized machinery in the 1950s, crops were sprayed and produce was transported by horse-drawn carts.

Apples and other produce were sold out of the Crunican farmhouse and barn. A sign told customers to “Blow your horn” when they drove up to receive service from the house. The farm shop, built in 1950, is still operating today and is home not only to Crunican Orchards’ direct sale of apples, but also offers a variety of items from other local producers, such as Bacon Acres Farm, Filsinger’s Organic Foods, and Ferguson Apiaries, to name just a few.

Under the care of Phillip and his family, the orchard has grown to produce almost twenty varieties of apple. While his grandfather originally planted 20 trees to an acre, the Crunicans now plant 400 trees to an acre. This is still a low-density rate of planting compared to other orchards who may plant up to 2,000 trees per acre.

In his talk, Phillip observed that “the industry is certainly changing a lot since my grandpa first started planting trees.” Instead of closing the farm shop each summer, the use of new controlled atmosphere storage technology means that their apples can be sold to customers year-round. This means the shop continues to support fellow producers by carrying their products year-round, too.

Even with the expansion of the farm and use of new technologies, some things remain the same at Crunican Orchards. For instance, each apple is hand-picked and hand-graded by a local workforce before being packaged for sale.

At the opening of Know Your Food, speaker Ray John asked the audience to look at their hands, and to think about and appreciate the hands that grow our food. Phillip and his family could not be more hands-on in feeding their local customers and the wider community, both with apples and by sharing space with other food businesses. With that level of care, it’s no surprise that Crunican Orchards remained a trusted source of produce throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which proved to be the busiest years for the farm store so far. 

This Local Food Week, head to Crunican Orchards for a honeycrisp apple, the farm’s most sought-after variety. Or how about a russet apple, a variety first propagated over 300 years ago and still popular today?

“Come & Crunch!” says the farm’s website and, we say, go and appreciate Crunican Orchards’ century-plus-long tradition of family farming and community stewardship!

Written by Siobhan Watters

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