Kent Reinke’s orchard 7 miles northeast of Buhl, Idaho, has been in his family six decades.
His grandparents planted the original trees in the 1950s and grew apples, peaches, pears, cherries, apricots, plums, nectarines and walnuts.
During the past 5 years Kent added many new trees, including 10 new varieties of plums (he now has 12 different types) several varieties of peaches, 4 types of nectarines and a few more varieties of apples, including Honeycrisp and Granny Smith.
He has 2 types of apricots, many different types of peaches and cherries, and a few walnut trees. He now has 4 types of pears.
“The new trees are just starting to produce fruit. Last year was my first crop from the new plum trees, and the second crop of nectarines. I’m also getting more Honeycrisp apples,” he says.
More people are trying the nectarines. “Everyone who tries them loves them. They come back every year for nectarines. The hard part is getting people to try them, but once they do, that’s the kind of fruit they want,” Kent says.
Almost everything in his orchard is marketed by U-pick. He has a fruit stand near his house, and people come to buy or pick. The customers pick just about everything, except the apricots. He picks those because the trees are tall and if people try to use ladders they knock some off.
“The apricots fall off so easily that it’s better if I pick those myself and sell them at my fruit shed. The older trees were too tall, so I put in about 25 new ones. These trees are shorter, but if people brush up against the ripe fruit it falls to the ground.”
He used to take some of his fruit to farmers’ markets but now he is able to sell it all at home.
“A few people pick and buy a large amount and take it to resell at farmers' markets at Twin Falls and Jerome. Some folks take my fruit to Ketchum and Sun Valley to package and sell,” he says.
People come from a wide area to pick fruit —Utah and Nevada as well as eastern and southern Idaho. Many are repeat customers over the years.
His main advertising is on Facebook, where he has a huge following.
“I post photos of the fruit as it gets ripe, and as soon as I announce that I’m opening the next day, those folks are all out here. One day I posted my cherries and the next day more than 300 people showed up early that morning,” Kent says.
This past spring there weren’t many cherries, due to frost damage, and they only lasted about a week. People had them all picked in about 4 days.
He is the only one working in his orchard, so it’s a full-time job. “My parents are getting up in years but they still help during the busy season, selling the fruit,” Kent says.
He doesn’t hire any help, and does all the tree care and pruning himself. Pruning is done during winter months while the trees are dormant. So far, this winter — though the weather has been cold — has been good for the trees. They stay dormant rather than trying to bud and bloom too early.
“Our cold weather has only been down into the low teens, and the high was about 31 degrees. It’s been better than last year when it got up into the 60s in February.”