NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (WFXR) — You have probably heard the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
But, what if life gives you Asian pears?
Well, this year the answer to that question is, plant flowers.
A late frost wiped out nearly 70% of the Asian pear crop at Virginia Gold Orchards in Natural Bridge. It forced owner Thomas Vandiver to pivot quickly to find a way to make up the lost revenue. The answer was to plant flowers, a crop he had never grown before.
“It was a risk,” said Vandiver as he walked through the flower fields on the orchard grounds. “As a farmer you manage risk. Flowers; it was theoretically good, but it was unproven.”
Flowers brought in enough cash to help fill the gap and now Vandiver says they will be grown every year.
As for the fruit that did come in, Vandiver says the hot, dry weather this summer has helped the crop. It concentrated the sugars and helped the pears to grow, leading to sweeter and juicier fruit.
“What you see is how big they can get,” Vandiver said as he plucked a huge Asian pear from a tree. “We grow 16 types of Asian pear here. You know, there are eight of them that are our core producers, but we have a number of them on here, that some you won’t see anywhere else in the world.”
Versatility is also vital when it comes to the pear harvest. In some cases, they sustain insect damage.
Vandiver says that is not a problem.
“We cut this top 20 percent off,” Vandiver said gesturing to an area with insect damage. “The rest of this is beautiful, and that’s what we’ll press to make wine; we’ll use that juice to make vinegar, we’ll use that juice to make syrup.”
The ability to adjust on the fly is often the difference between success and failure on a farm.
“We took a risk, and our risk was rewarded.”