Mickey family enjoys fruits of its labors

February 17, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Despite winter storms and arctic cold, it's been a very good January for the Jack Mickey family of Shatzer Fruit Market and Orchard on U.S. 30 west of Chambersburg.

As they have for many years, longtime orchardists Jack Mickey, 70, his wife, Wilma, and son, Dwight, brought home numerous ribbons and awards from the Pennsylvania State Farm Show last month, including the prestigious best fruit market display and best bushel of apples.

Then, only two weeks after their Farm Show honors, Jack Mickey received the 2003 Outstanding Grower Award from the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP) at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention at Hershey (Pa.) Convention Center.


"I didn't expect to get it," he said. "I thought Dwight might get it some year."

The award is given to a person making a significant contribution to the state's fruit industry during the year. Any Pennsylvania resident may vote, Mickey said, with the final selection being determined by a committee of the winners from the last five years.

The last time a Franklin County, Pa., resident received the award was 10 years ago, according to SHAP records.

Fruit grower Glenn Shaw of Stewartstown, Pa., in York County, said he has known Jack Mickey for about 20 years.

Shaw, the immediate past president of SHAP, said Mickey has "been a real leader in the fruit industry; he's involved in a lot of different things, and helps out with Farm Show. Whenever we need help, he's there."

He added that Mickey has held leadership roles in the organization, including the presidency.

A member of SHAP since 1965, Mickey served on its board for nine years.

Every year, Mickey works at the association's apple booth in the farm show's food court, selling apples, apple dumplings and cider.

"It generates a lot of money for research," he said.

Mickey is active on the local level also, serving as treasurer of the Franklin County Horticultural Society for more than 20 years. He also is involved with Penn State University research projects, such as Integrated Pest Management and trickle irrigation, he said.

Sitting in the family's fruit market recently, Mickey recalled that he and Wilma began tending the 90-acre farm and orchard on both sides of busy U.S. 30 in 1965, when her parents retired from the business.

In addition to fruit, they also grow corn, pumpkins and rye.

He helps Dwight Mickey spray and prune the fruit trees and rake brush out from under the trees.

"We'll be cleaning up the orchard for spring soon," he said.

While the Mickeys do most of the work at the market and in the orchard themselves, they employ seasonal workers to help prune trees and pick fruit.

"I keep the carts unloaded," Jack said, adding that his current project is repairing wooden crates in preparation for the onslaught of fruit, which begins in June.

Another winter activity is sorting apples for the farm show.

"Dwight picks about 150 bushels out while we're harvesting, then we start (going through them again) around Christmas. It takes 10 days, then Wilma goes over the final ones."

Cold weather does not harm the trees, Mickey said.

"We hope it stays cold and that there is continued ground cover," he said. "The trees are sleeping. When the ground warms, the sap moves and then we don't want cold weather."

Mickey said his favorite apple varieties are Goldens and Cortlands, either eaten fresh or in an apple crisp made by his wife.

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