Our Family History
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!!
About The Founder
Harry Black, 1st Generation of Catoctin Mountain Orchard
“Harry Black, center wearing red hat”
Catoctin Mountain Orchard was started in 1948 when Harry Black, who was working for the owner Iran Kelbaugh, helped start and build an open-air retail market just north of Thurmont, Maryland along Rt. 15. Prior to the 1948 opening of the orchard market, 95% of the Catoctin apples and peaches were marketed through wholesalers in the Baltimore-Washington-Virginia area. In 1961, Harry and Helen Black made the final payment to Ira Kelbaugh to purchased the farm. Several changes were made over the next seven years included building three cold storage rooms, four Irrigation ponds and an Apple grader to wash and size the Apples. Customers started asking for other Fruit, Berries, & Vegetables. Harry talked with several Extension Agents to give him advise on diversifying his Apple and Peach crops by adding Cherries, Plums, Pears, Concord Grapes, Black Raspberries, & Vegetables to give customers more variety.
Portable irrigation pipe was used to for Irrigation to help keep our Trees and Plants growing strong to produce a great crop when “Mother Nature” was not providing any rain fall. In 1976, it rained a 1/2″ of rain every 7 to 10 days throughout that year. Dad noticed how All crops grew so well producing a great crop ,but also good growth on the trees to produce a another great crop the next year!!
Dad contacted John Nye who started and owns Trickle-Eez Irrigation Company based in Saint Joseph, Michigan. John stopped by in the Spring ofswitched to Drip or Trickle Irrigation on the entire Farm. This new practice flows water through miles of 1/2″ tubing that run down each row Trees, Berries, & Vegetables at low pressure using small Electric pumps conserving Water and Energy while keeping our plants stress free to grow a great crop!
The farm covers 100 acres and is divided into 70 percent orchard, 20 percent vegetables, cover crops, and other produce. The major crops produced are Apples, Peaches, Cherries, Nectarines, Pears, Apricots, Plums, Black Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Kiwi Berries, Concord Grapes, and assorted vegetables. In 1983, the family decided to close up the open-air market and build a 50′ x 50′ addition with heating and air conditioning and blacktop parking. Over the past few years, the farm has further expanded by creating a Playground area for both young and old, a “Cut Your Own Flowers” area and one of the most popular additions, the Bakery.
“We are always planting and testing new varieties of all fruit and berries always looking for the juiciest, best tasting varieties that can be grown here on the eastern slope of the Appalachian Mountain Range” Says Robert Black co-owner of Catoctin Mountain Orchard.
Today, the 2nd, 3rd, & 4th generation of the Harry Black Family work very hard to bring you the safest, best tasting Fruit, Berries & Vegetables that can be grown on our rich soils that we strive to improve and protect for generations to come!
Harry Black Family
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.