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  #1  
Old 10/07/08, 11:47 PM
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Making money WITH the homestead!

We are having success with our U-Pick apple orchard! People are happy to pay for the privilege of picking their own apples from the tree.

We have owned the orchard since 2000, and sold our apples to local larger growers for the first few years. We registered with the USDA as a farm. There were problems with selling to the other growers. They were set up for selling direct to the public from their farms. They couldn't produce enough apples to meet the demand. If they needed our apples they were great to deal with. If they didn't need them they were impossible to reach. Hiring pickers is always a problem. We refuse to hire illegals. We paid americans to pick the apples, and we paid twice what the other growers were paying the illegals. We also had the problem with getting the price for the apples that had been agreed to. After paying pickers, delivering the apples and waiting for weeks to be paid, they would only pay what the pickers cost, and not the agreed upon price. My only option would be to take them to court. I decided not to deal with them anymore instead.

We finally were approved for a farm/ranch insurance policy. Because we finally had liability coverage, we decided to open for U-Pick. This iliminated the need to deal with the other growers, and for dealing with pickers!

We declare all income and expenses related to our ranch on our taxes. This allows us to deduct ranch expenses.

Our picking season will only last while we have apples, and then the pace there will return to the quiet we have come to love!

Last year we were only open for two weeks. Wildfires caused the Forest Service to close all FS roads in our mountians. Because of this our customers couldn't reach us and we closed up. Also Santa Ana winds that fed the flames also caused a massive apple drop.

Despite that short time we were open, we are getting return business, and they are bringing their friends!

Our ranch has a rich history. I have written about it on local websites, and posted historic photos. The locals that didn't even know we existed, have really enjoyed reading it, and come to see the place. I wrote articles for two papers, and they have not yet been published. A friend has written an article about the history and how good the experience of picking there was, and that should be published this week or next.

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Old 10/08/08, 12:16 AM
 
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Glad to hear business is good!

There is a U-pick place in our area. You should see the place in the fall!!!!! No place to park, and crowded!!!!!!

They have a nice barn, with a poured cement floor that is used for the store.

I simply cannot believe the amount of stuff they sell. It really is amazing the stuff people will buy, and the amounts they spend.

T-shirts. Their t-shirts are overpriced at $12. If they have more than $5 in each shirt, I would be surprised. (I have 15 years of selling screen printed shirts.)

Gallons of private labeled cider, in refridgerated cases. Their cider is $4 a gallon, and overpriced. People buy this by the case, and yet the same thing is cheaper elsewhere. If it were their own cider, and better quality, I would understand.

They sell apples, by variety, by the peice, bag, big bag, big old bag, peck and bushel. The elderly and the 'too rich to care' crowds mostly buy these.

They also sell a frozen cider drink like a slushie. Fix it yourself. Wow, is that stuff ever good, but waaaaay over priced at 1.50 for a small cup.

They also do a good business in pumpkins and baled straw. Again, prices are very high.

2 years ago, I went to this U-pick with my sister, just to get out of the house. While waiting on sissy, I stood near the cash register. It is simply amazing to hear that register ring continuously, and with big amounts!!!!

I hope you offer better value than our local place.

I know from reading your posts that you have to be friendlier than the arrogant and rude group that runs the local apple place. I mean, do you have to yell at someone who just spent $45 on 3 small pumpkins, just because you want to drive the tractor where you told them to park in the first place?

Probably one of the most arrogant run businesses in central Indiana.

Clove

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Old 10/08/08, 01:52 AM
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I haven't yelled at anybody there, although I have asked some of the younger guests not to throw apples! And one fellow wanted to use one of my husband's ladders to get at the higher apples. I provide long handled pickers. I told him it would void my insurance if he used a ladder. He said that didn't bother him, so I told him if he hurt himself, I would have to shoot him, and hide the body. I said it politely, and with a smile. He left hubby's ladders alone!

Right now, all we sell are apples, and we are comparable in price to what the grocery store sells.

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Old 10/08/08, 07:39 AM
 
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I was wondering about doing a u-pick type operation here. My parents had a u-cut christmas tree farm and did well with it. My dad was retired .The trees took constant care and alot of chemicals to keep them looking like christmas trees. How much time is involved in spraying and pruning your trees?

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Old 10/08/08, 08:13 AM
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Our orchard is 100 years old, and is organic.

Pruning takes more time than we have, honestly, because I have a bad back and can't do it. DH works more than full time at his regular job. It will be easier after he retires, but the trees are not properly pruned for the most part, but we get huge amounts of great apples anyway!

He has an ATV and a tow behind sprayer. He sprays with organic fish fertilizer and with calcium.

Next year we will paint the trunks with a lime or whitewash solution to help cut down on the coddling moth problems. We will also hang traps for them.

As for the time involved? Whatever time we an spare for it. Once we get the orchard pruned it will be a maintenance think to keep it up, and the pruning will be in the Spring time.

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  #6  
Old 10/08/08, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Our ranch has a rich history. I have written about it on local websites, and posted historic photos. The locals that didn't even know we existed, have really enjoyed reading it, and come to see the place. I wrote articles for two papers, and they have not yet been published. A friend has written an article about the history and how good the experience of picking there was, and that should be published this week or next.
Could you post links to the articles you wrote about it? Sounds real nice.

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  #7  
Old 10/08/08, 11:38 AM
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Stetson Creek Ranch: The San Bernardino Forest’s Secret Hidden Treasure

The apple season is nearly over in the lower elevations, but there’s amazing good news that will come as a shock to Big Bear area fresh apple lovers.

There’s another apple ranch in our mountains that’s been a well-kept secret for a century. It’s Stetson Creek Ranch, 4.9 miles East of Angeles Oaks off Highway 38, The old ranch is rich in both history and apples, and has had several uses during the years, ranging from being a Boy Scout camp, Seventh Day Adventist equestrian camp and in the 1880’s was owned by the notorious cattle rustler, Jim McHaney. (He hid the stolen cattle there.)

Richard Stetson was a widower who moved there and built the pioneer structures from trees he harvested from the ranch. He planted the apple orchard with his children. He was an industrious man. He owned livery stables, restaurants and hotels. He was twice elected San Bernardino County Tax collector. He had contracts to carry the mail, and take the census. When Helen Hunt Jackson was writing for her novel “Ramona”, most likely in 1883, Richard Stetson took her around the inland empire looking for local color.

In 1914 Richard and his daughter Mary Stetson met author Harold Bell Wright. He was writing his western novel “Eyes of the World”. He was so impressed with young Mary that he used her as the model for the heroine of the story, “Sibyl”. The character looked like Mary, she lived Mary’s life and wore Mary’s clothes. The 1914 photograph of Mary was taken at Clarks Ranch (at the bottom of Clark’s grade, a short distance from the Stetson Ranch.

The illustration from Eyes of the World has Sibyl wearing Mary’s riding outfit. The Stetsons lived at their mountain ranch for most of the year, from the spring when the snow melted until after apple harvest when the weather turned cold. They left the mountain late each autumn to avoid the heavy snows that could strand them at their remote ranch. The character Sibyl also left her apple orchard in the mountains in the winter for another home in “Fairlands” (Redlands).



This photograph shows the ranch in 1920, and the orchard was already well established at that time.


The Photograph of Richard Stetson plowing his orchard was taken in the 1930’s when he was in his 80’s.



Over the years, other apple ranches in the area have disappeared, but Stetson Creek Ranch still survives as a monument to a bygone era. Today,Stetson Creek Ranch is owned by Tere and Patti Messenger who have opened the bounty of historic apples as a U-Pick operation. The 42-acre ranch is surrounded on all four sides by San Bernardino National Forest and is 2.2 miles off Highway 38, but for those determined to taste the delicious old varieties of apples, the drive is worth the trip. The ranch is open for U-Pick apples Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm throughout the apple season. It’s a great chance to take a trip back in history and visit a genuine old area ranch, and taste the apples that Great Grandma used to love.

In all these years, the acres of apples have never been touched by chemical fertilizers or pesticides and thus are now what is considered “organic”. October is perfect apple weather when the apples grow large and colorful with the warm days and cold nights. Hopefully the ranch will be open weekends for the next month or so, depending on the apples and the weather.

The road to the ranch is at milepost 24.91 on Highway 38 (start looking at the mile markers after you pass Jenks Lake Road, as you head down the hill), then just follow the signs down Forest Service Road 1N86 (Hill Ranch Road) the road to the ranch. The dirt road is bumpy, so go slow. The road is at times steep and rocky, but guaranteed to be a trip the kids will love.

Visit www.stetsoncreekranch.com for map, directions, contact information.
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Old 10/09/08, 06:18 PM
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More good news! Tomorrow, the local radio station will be telling about our ranch on air!

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  #9  
Old 10/09/08, 09:44 PM
 
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Did you ever get your sign problem fixed?

Clove

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Old 10/10/08, 12:17 AM
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We started chaining the signs to trees. We haven't lost a sandwich board sign since we started chaining them. We pretty much know who took the others. One of the cabin owners (Forest Service lease land) on our road is telling anyone who will listen, that his cabin gets broken into every time we open for business. His cabin is two miles from our gate, and by all rights should have nothing to do with us. However to get to us, you must take the public road past his place, and he feels violated that we create traffic on the road.

The local forest ranger sent out a letter to the cabin owners explaining that we are the only private land owners on the road, and the Forest Service does not restrict our land use, nor access to the public lands surrounding us or the public) Forest Service road leading to our place.

After the email from the FS went out, one of my signs was brought back and thrown down an embankment where it still lays broken into many pieces at the bottom. With my bad back, I can't scale the embankment to retrieve it. It wasn't there until days after it was stolen that it was brought back and thrown down there.. I had looked there for my sign, and so did the sheriff.

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  #11  
Old 10/10/08, 07:35 AM
 
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What a wonderful history. I would come and visit but I think it is a bit too far.We are going to a couple orchards in the area to get an idea of what it will take ,what varieties ,and how many trees.

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Old 10/10/08, 06:56 PM
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The Big Bear Grizzly ran the article this week. Here is the link!

http://www.bigbeargrizzly.net/articl...etsonranch.txt

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Old 10/30/08, 07:23 PM
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We had 10 days of unseasonably warm weather and a couple of days of Santa Ana winds that blew hot. This caused most of the apples to drop and the ones remaining in the trees to go soft. We have closed for the season because of this.

This year was good for us. We certainly didn't get wealthy, but we did make enough to cover our farm/ranch insurance policy, and the property taxes for the year.

Last year we only got to be open for two weekends, and had very few customers. This year, nearly every one of the customers from last year came back, and brought friends! Some of the people from this year came back and brought friends and family!

On another note, I had registered my ranch with the local film commission, so that if someone wanted to do filming at the ranch (for pay) we were available. Tomorrow I will be meeting someone from Warner Brothers to see if they want to use our place to record the sound of antique guns (firing blanks) to be used in a movie. This sounds like lots of fun, just to see how they do it!

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