Farmers always have work to do

Aaron Krause • Aug 23, 2010 at 10:59 AM

Most people would agree the weather right now isn't conducive for a farmers market. But, unless it is before 9 a.m. or after 5:30 p.m., there's one in operation at Burnham Orchards in Berlin Heights.

Sure, the Burnham farmers market is indoors at this time of year, but there is one nonetheless.

While the winter season doesn't provide many chances for farmers to plant outdoors, the cold and snowy weather gives them a chance to catch up on other things.

"Most everybody has something they do in the winter," Burnham Orchard manager Joe Burnham Sr. said.

The farm, at 8019 Ohio 113 E., has been in the family since 1815.

For those at Burnham, winter means doing book work in the office, packing apples for shipment to chain stores, performing maintenance work on machinery in a heated shop and operating the indoor farmer's market. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, and offers items such as apples, apple cider, jams and jellies. There's also a bakery, open during the same hours from Wednesday through Sunday.

"We manage to keep as busy in the winter as the summer," Burnham said. "It's hard to believe, but we do. On our farm, we're busy pretty much year-round."

During the season, Burnham said workers are mostly outside, mowing orchards, spraying fruits and finishing up any pruning. Burnham said he prunes in the winter, if it's not snowing or colder than 25.

At Quarry Hill Orchards, also in Berlin Heights, owner Bill Gammie recalls his uncle pruning in below zero weather. At the time, Gammie was a high school student, and said he believes his uncle was trying to teach him a lesson: It might be freezing, but there's still work to do.

Gammie has apparently learned the lesson, because he's out there pruning starting usually in December. He said it takes four to five months to complete the process.

"We never get done pruning, that's our problem," Gammie said. "So there's no such thing as a slack time in the orchard business."

During the summer and fall, Gammie said it is not unusual to work 80 to 100 hours a week. During the winter months, that might drop to around 60 hours a week, he added.

Still, he said there's no such thing as an eight-hour day in his business.

At the Wiers Farm Inc. in Celeryville, partner Ben Wiers said schedules vary, depending on the job. In general, Wiers said work is not as hectic during the offseason.

"I don't know if the body can hold up to it that long," he said.

In the offseason, workers at Wiers Farm make plans for the following production year. They likely won't start field operations until the end of March when the real long hours begin.

"We don't do the crack of dawn thing this time of year," Wiers said, laughing.

Wiers Farm Inc. covers more than 5,000 production acres. Between its Celeryville and Michigan operations, the company farms around 4,000 acres, along with another 1,000 in Florida. It has been in the family since 1896.

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