Deal’s Orchard near Jefferson was put on display Thursday as Practical Farmers of Iowa held a field day opportunity for people to learn about their cider operations, as well as their pumpkin culture.
Attendees learned about the apple cider side of the business. Benji Deal said they harvest apples from July through the end of October. They have 30 different kinds of apples, which are categorized into four grades. The top grade has no blemishes and are typically sold to grocery stores. The second grade are used for baking. The bottom two grades are used for making cider and livestock feed or put back into the orchard for nutrients.
When they make hard cider, Benji said they use mostly Jonathan apples and with their 1982 pressing machine, they can make 30,000-35,000 gallons of sweet cider per year. He added that they currently make 3,000 gallons of hard cider. Benji’s brother Chris Deal, is a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa. He joined PFI five years ago and he talked about why he originally became a member.
“There’s a lot of cross-over between fruit and vegetable growers and PFI, and so (it was) curiosity more than anything, and met some really good people. (I) Was able to do a field day with them three years ago I think where I went up north and we built a high tunnel. (I) Worked with PFI a year and a half ago and hosted a field day here where we built a high tunnel that we now raise tomatoes in.”
The day rounded out with attendees seeing how Deal’s Orchard grows and harvests its pumpkins and enjoyed a catered lunch.