Cover's Apple Ranch
Preserving a choice apple
Perched in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at nearly 3,000 feet, Cover's Apple Ranch successfully grows and markets apples and pears where scores of other regional orchards have succumbed to development and other pressures. As an innovative agritourism enterprise, Cover's Apple Ranch may be best known for its "mile high apple pie" but the apple orchard's ability to continue a profitable business in a challenging location is perhaps its most notable feature.
California's Tuolumne County, where Cover's Apple Ranch is located, boasted as many as 40 commercial orchards in the early 1900s. Due to changing circumstance, less than a handful remain. Jesse Cover, general manager of Cover's Apple Ranch, explains that the region's orchards have followed availability of water for irrigation. "In the early 1900s irrigation was first available here because of the gold mines. So this is where the orchards were first established. When water also became available in California's more temperate Central Valley, farmers preferred the lower elevations because of the decreased frost danger and the rock-free soil found in the valley. Consequently, most orchards here have now been parceled up for development."
The ranch's 89 acres has changed ownership a number of times and, in fact, was previously owned by Jesse Cover's uncle in the 1960s. Each change in ownership brought changes in the management and marketing of the produce harvested from the 26 acres of orchard, including development of retail and tourism related facilities and associated marketing practices. When the 89 acre Cover's Apple Ranch went up for sale in 1998, Jesse and his extended family took steps to acquire and preserve it with the belief that, despite the challenges of the location, the Ranch and Orchard could be a profitable business.
Just two years after purchasing the Ranch, the Cover family's resolve and commitment to the venture was tested when fire destroyed most of the commercial buildings on the Ranch. Instead of giving up and allowing the orchard to be chopped up for a lucrative development, the family rebuilt the structures needed to make the ranch a success. Jesse says that the family's access to cull logs and his ability to produce quality lumber from the cull logs with a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill reduced reconstruction costs and made the decision easier.
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