Kielbasa Orchards is a small apple orchard located in Amherst, MA that has been in the family for four generations. This local farm, with a stunning view of the Holyoke Mountain Range, provides UMass Dining with tasty heirloom apples every year. Kielbasa Orchards is owned and managed by Kyle Kielbasa and his family. Kyle grew up working and playing on the orchards and has always loved farming. “I am happiest when I am out there,” Kyle remarked.
Kyle shared with us that growing apples has been especially tricky in recent years because of the effects of climate change. Fruit trees depend on slow-changing and predictable weather patterns, but climate change creates extreme weather changes that are often difficult for apples to survive through. Kyle explained, “When warm weather arrives, the apple buds start to bloom, leaving the entire crop at risk to freeze and die when the temperatures drop again. You lose the crop to the frost in the spring and that’s it. There is no replanting.” It takes eight years for an apple tree to grow before an orchard can start selling its apples, and if a frost comes after the weather has warmed enough for apple trees to bud, an entire season’s apple crop can be lost. “Working with mother nature is a very humbling experience,” Kyle laughed.
Despite the huge challenges they face, Kyle and his family always find a way to make things work because growing apples is what they love. “I work seven days a week on the farm and it doesn’t feel like work for me. It is just a part of me.”
Thank you so much to the Kielbasa’s for working with UMass Dining, and a special thanks to Kyle for speaking with us! Visit Kielbasa Orchards’ website here to visit their farm, experience their spectacular view, and pick your own apples!
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