The idea of “Agritainment”—inviting the general public to enjoy a slice of life on the farm—is nothing new at Weaver’s Orchard. Throughout the last decade and a half Weaver’s Orchard has transformed much of the area surrounding the market into a family-friendly, customer-inclusive space where we want our patrons to know a sense of belonging.
A Little Background
Initial strides in the direction of Agritainment began with the implementation of a vibrant Pick Your Own program where customers are encouraged to get to know the orchard in a more personal way.
While the concept of Pick Your Own was not original to Weaver’s Orchard, it was a milestone in how the orchard interacted with the community. The desire to create a space where families could gather— and, with a little bit of work mixed with a lot of fun, make memories together— was foundational for the future of our version of Agritainment.
As the PYO program began to grow, a natural progression then followed, expanding the ways in which patrons could become involved at the orchard beyond the market experience. To date we have been able to provide our community with Read ‘n’ Pick Story Times that meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, the Taste of Weaver’s Festival in early June, Johnny Appleseed Day and Family Fun Days in autumn, and educational school tours and programs that take the orchard to the classroom.
When Weaver’s Orchard updated its tagline to “Bearing Fruit for Generations” in 2015, the vision of continually exploring new ways to involve our community was given a permanent place in the longterm commitment of the business.
Why It Matters
The small corner of southeastern PA in which the orchard is found has gone through some major changes over the past few decades. A majority of the tri-county area has transitioned from predominantly agrarian based stretches of land peppered with small towns, to more of a “country-suburban” feel. As the area has moved away from its agrarian base, a greater disconnect between the food consumers eat and where it comes from has emerged.
Therefore, the new Orchard Explorers program was born out of a love for what we do, and a passion to show our community not only where their food comes from but how easy it can be to get involved in supporting local agriculture.
Justin Weaver, current Vice President of Weaver’s Orchard Inc. and Production Manager is himself a father of four and has a strong commitment to finding new ways to equip the upcoming generations with hands on experiences with their food. Justin and his wife Elizabeth (pictured above, with their family), have visited multiple orchard educational programs along with other members of the orchard visionary team–with the hopes of eventually establishing a program of our own at Weaver’s.
In June of 2015 the visionary team began seriously discussing how Weaver’s Orchard could bring this new and necessary component to the vision of “Bearing Fruit for Generations” into reality. After discussing various logistical details, the team enlisted help from Karalee Tuck and me, in January 2017.
My sister Karalee and I have had the privilege to play key roles in the growth, development, and implementation of various Agritainment initiatives in the past, and are excited to be back in a new role as co-directors of Orchard Explorers.
What We’ll Explore
Each week Karalee and I will lead young explorers and their adult chaperones on educational adventures through the orchard. The Orchard Explorers program will take place every Tuesday beginning on June 13 with a final expedition on August 15. (Don’t worry, we won’t meet on July 4!) These two and a half hour sessions, starting at 9:00am and ending at 11:30am, will highlight unique aspects of what life on the orchard looks like behind the scenes.
What excites Karalee and me most is the opportunity for explorers and their chaperones to experience something new together. Each week will provide a full-on sensory experience for all involved.
Participants will actively learn about orchard tasks such as planting, pruning, and harvesting, as well as lesser known aspects such as irrigation, soil composition, and grafting. Each session will focus on a particular topic and include hands on experimentation and implementation of the applicable techniques. Additionally, in keeping true to the name, participants should expect to travel throughout the orchard exploring various locations in person, and of course find plenty of chances to discover, harvest, and taste whatever produce is in its prime that week.
While each session is designed to be a standalone experience, Karalee and I hope to see familiar faces coming back week after week.
During the first and second week Orchard Explorers will help plant herbs and other summer crops in newly established raised beds to create a pizza garden. These raised beds will become a central fixture of the program and serve as a jumping off point for many of the program topics.
As the explorer program comes to a close, Karalee and I hope to share a final Harvest and Celebration with Orchard Explorers young and old after a season of hard work, discovery, hands on learning, and a better understanding of why we love what we do.
For more information about the Orchard Explorers, dates, times, pricing and a tentative list of weekly topics, visit the Orchard Explorers page here.