How it all started…
Catoctin Mountain Orchard built a small retail farm market in 1948 when my father, Harry Black worked for owner, Ira Kelbaugh. 70% of the 100 acres of Apple and Peaches were sold to truckers and the wholesale markets in Baltimore and Washington area. Harry and Helen Black purchased the farm from Mr. Kelbaugh in 1961 and built several additions to the open air retail market. Other types of fruit and berries were added along with jams, preserves, honey, maple syrup, and more. These items got more customers to stop and enjoy the “fruits of our labor”.
In 1983 we decided to close up our “open air” market and build a 50’x50′ addition with heat and air conditioning with a blacktop parking lot for our customers. Today we grow Strawberries, Black Raspberries, Blueberries, Apricots, Sweet & Sour Cherries, White & Yellow Peaches & Nectarines, Plums, Kale, Cabbage, Squash, Cukes, Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Apples, Pears, Concord Grapes, Blackberries, Cantaloupes, Peppers, Rhubarb, Kiwi Berries, and More.
Catoctin Mountain Orchard, from the beginning, has always incorporated Best Management Practices from trickle irrigation which allows for increased growth while using less water and much less power, to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which allows the “good bugs” to control the “bad bugs” thus reducing the use of pesticides, to composting leaves, grass and woodchips.
As the farm grew and different types of produce were grown, having enough labor became a challenge in the late 1980s and the family decided to hire part-time labor to help out the full-time employees with pruning and harvesting. The farm was very fortunate to hire four Mexican men to help and these men have been with the farm ever since and are a very important part of it`s success.
Some of the most recent additions to Catoctin’s lineup is our “Playground Area” that overlooks our “Cut Your Own Flowers”. Many customers just love to stroll through our Flower Garden taking that favorite picture to show others the beauty of the season. Some of our favorite flowers are Zinnias, Lisianthus, Gornphrena, Celosia, Black-Eyed Susan, Statice, Asters, Cocks Comb, Snap Dragons, and more.
One of the main reasons Catoctin Mountain Orchard is able to produce crops is the ability to irrigate our entire farm with Trickle or Drip irrigation using miles of tubing and small electric pumps. This tubing has very small holes every 24′ that drips water out and is laid along the rows to feed the crops. This method helps us to conserve water and energy.
With Integrate Pest Management (IPM), we monitor bad insects with traps. Good insects eat bad ones. This reduces the number of chemicals necessary to maintain a healthy crop.
Nine years ago, Catoctin Mountain Orchard started contracting with the school lunch program, where our apples are used to supply lunches in Frederick County Public Schools. It’s wonderful that “Frederick County Students” are eating many varieties of our great tasting apples. We’re providing them with great Apple eating experience that we hope will last a lifetime!
Our most popular addition has been our bakery. You may not see it when you first enter the market, but your nose will lead you there. The list of Pound Cakes include Apple Spice, Blueberry, Cream Cheese, Zucchini, and my favorite, Banana Nut. Or maybe a Pie like Apple, Apple Walnut, Peach, Peach Praline, Cherry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Strawberry Rhubarb, Blackberry, Blackberry Peach, Four Berry, Apricot, Apple Blackberry, Peach Blueberry, & Apple Crumb. Our NO SUGAR varieties include Blueberry, Peach, Apple, & Cherry. In 2005 we sold over 6,000 Apple Dumplings. Cookies, Pumpkin, or Ginger Bread, a variety of Brownies and Crumb Cakes, Plus those wonderful Apple Cider Donuts will surely satisfy your taste buds!!
History of Catoctin`s Own
Autumn Gala is sweet and the crunchiest of ALL Gala Apple varieties grown. It was found here on a limb of a “Kidd`s D8” Gala tree over 20 years ago. We name it “Harry Black Gala” in memory of my father after he died in 1998. The “Trade” Name or the listing at the Tree Nurseries is “Autumn Gala”. Many Nurseries all over the world have test trees planted to see how it performs in other climates.