Apples, peaches and pears: A sweet family orchard

by | Jul 31, 2020

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Jeff Crotts, of Knob Creek Orchard, are two of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

Jeff Crotts, owner of Knob Creek Orchard in Toluca, has farming in his blood. Crotts’ parents, Raymond and Loree Crotts, began planting apple trees in the late 1940’s, although it wasn’t until 1958 that they officially founded Knob Creek Orchard.

Starting with over 200 acres of apples, the Crotts family later reduced that number to 75 acres, but diversified into peaches in the 1970’s. Now under Jeff Crotts and his wife Tara’s ownership, Knob Creek has further expanded to include strawberries, Asian pears and over 200 acres of blackberries, alongside a bakery and home-made ice cream.

Jeff Crotts also works with ARMtech insurance in the crop insurance industry, a career which has helped him pursue his passion for agriculture. “I love farming, we’ve been very successful with it,” he said. “I’m 61 years old, and if I retired, I’d just be doing the same thing I’m already doing.” Watching the produce grow on the vines and trees of Knob Creek is Jeff’s favorite part of farming – carefully tending to the crop, raising it up and doing all he can to produce the perfect piece of fruit. If Jeff has it his way, he’ll keep doing that for the rest of his life. “There’s a demand for what we do,” he said. “Every year, I just look at what we’ve done, and as long as we can pay our bills I am going to do it again for another year.”

Knob Creek has had to endure some hardship to get where it is. In 1989, a tornado wiped out around 85 percent of the apple trees on the property and destroyed the orchard’s apple house. Raymond Crotts, owner at the time, rebuilt the orchard, only to have Hurricane Hugo destroy another 500 apple trees shortly afterward. He persevered, and Knob Creek has since flourished into an orchard well-known for being environmentally friendly.

With such a wide variety of fruits grown at the orchard, Jeff Crotts has quite a few to choose from when it comes to his own personal preference, but he hasn’t had any difficulty picking a favorite. “There is no better piece of fruit than a tree-ripened peach,” he said. “We’re blessed to have a good location to grow them, right above the isothermal belt where the temperature is just right.” Crotts hopes to farm for the rest of his life.

Jeff is in the process now of adding more storage, and plans to begin marketing his own berries soon. One day, if everything works out, he hopes to pass Knob Creek on to his two sons to continue the family tradition that began more than half a century ago.