What is in this article?:
- Labor and marketing challenges that have knocked all the other 20 or so apple growers in Haywood County, N.C., out of business — except Benny Arrington.
- When he grew his first crop of apples on what had been Barber Farms, Arrington hired a group of Mexican laborers to help him spray, pick and process his apples. Over the years, he paid them well, treated them fairly and even helped several get green cards and subsequently U.S. citizenship.
No stranger to apple production
Arrington was no stranger to apple production when he bought one of several tracts of land and apple orchards that once made up the sprawling Barber Orchards. He bought both the land and Barber’s Fruit Stand in the early 1990’s.
“My family was in the apple business in an adjoining county before Richard Barber planted his first apple tree in North Carolina,” Arrington says proudly. He is the fourth generation and his son Stephen is the fifth generation of Arrington’s in the apple business in the mountains of western North Carolina.
When he grew his first crop of apples on what had been Barber Farms, Arrington hired a group of Mexican laborers to help him spray, pick and process his apples. Over the years, he paid them well, treated them fairly and even helped several get green cards and subsequently U.S. citizenship.
Though many have moved on to house building and other industries, members of their family come back every year to help “Mr. Benny” with the apples.
Arrington hires a company to custom prune his apple trees, but he says labor forces are creating a real challenge for the owner to continue.
Losing his pruning crew would be a challenge, but the North Carolina grower is confident he can find the labor to do it, if he has to do so. “We hope this fellow can stay in business, but it’s hard to find people who want to work in an apple orchard in the winter time,” he adds.
In addition to 75 acres of apples, the Arringtons also grow about 10 acres of vegetables that they sell fresh, daily at the fruit stand. “We open the first day of August selling sweet corn, tomatoes, squash and a few others. Then, we start with early maturing apples and keep a fresh supply on through the latest maturing varieties. We close at 3 p.m. every Christmas Eve,” Arrington explains.