The Evolution of a Farm – Kuhn Orchard

By Adam Baudoux, Advertising Coordinator

Since its inception in the 1840s, Kuhn Orchards has shifted and evolved under the management of five generations of family farmers. The size, scope and marketing direction of the operation may have changed, but focus remains on producing a quality product. Fifth generation owner, Sidney Kuhn, along with her husband and Field Manager, Anthony Herring, have identified an expanding market for their fresh fruits and vegetables in the Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. area.

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With more than 30 varieties of apples, 40 varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, and pears, it could be said Kuhn Orchards is a diverse fruit farm. Add to that row crop vegetables, grapes, berries, herbs, and cut flowers, and Kuhn Orchards suddenly becomes a distinctive operation. The orchard originally focused on wholesaling fruits to brokers and producing peaches and apples for processing. The fourth generation, Sidney’s father David Kuhn, decided to try selling directly to consumers at famers markets in Northern Virginia. Experiencing success with direct marketing, the fifth generation and current owner, Sidney Kuhn, is now selling produce at 12 farmers markets in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

According to Field Manager, Anthony Herring, the farm is becoming more diverse every growing season. “Sidney reads and researches a lot. She tries to stay ahead of the trends and know what people are going to want next season – she was ahead of the antioxidants trend.” The partnership works well. “She tells me what to grow, and I figure out how to grow it.” The relationships developed by selling directly to the consumer also shapes the farm. “People can tell us what they’re interested in.” Anthony says that connection with purchasers is critical to creating a farm plan, for instance, Kuhn planted heirloom tomatoes in response to customer requests.

Anthony has also recently improved the operation’s nutrient management plan. “I work with [an agronomist] to work out a start-up plan; the application rate per acre for the row crops,” he explains. “Then, we’re on a pretty strict 7-10 day schedule for the duration of the growing season.” He adds that he has converted to only using liquid fertilizer. “I used more material this year, but I almost doubled my yield. It’s been a phenomenal year for yield.” Anthony said the weather did its part in his area to help those yields, but he is more than happy with his new nutrient management program, “the fertilizer changed the flavor of my carrots – customers just loved them.” His philosophy on nutrient management is fairly straight-forward, “Take the plant, keep it happy. That’s it. Put what it needs, where it needs it. Give it a little bit – not all at once – and the plant responds to that. Simple.”

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Something else that has changed on Kuhn Orchards in recent years is their online presence. They have utilized the Orchard’s website and social media to increase direct- sales to consumers. They offer an online enrollment option for a winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program or a-la-carte ordering, they also have an active blog, recipe page utilizing their fresh fruits and vegetables, and much more – all in an effort to engage customers and personalize their business. Anthony says the goal is to move away from wholesale marketing completely and sell 100% of their produce directly to consumers.

Despite different methods and marketing, the focus of Kuhn Orchards remains the same as it was in 1840; to produce a quality product. “We like to say we’re a flavor farm,” Anthony says. “I tell my guys, ‘don’t pick anything you wouldn’t take home to your wife.’ I tell them that because my wife doesn’t like to sell anything she wouldn’t eat, and my job is to get the best fruit possible to her so she can sell it.” It’s a partnership that’s working on this operation.

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