Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association celebrates 100 years

Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association celebrates 100 years

CUMBERLAND - The Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association turns 100 this year, and events are planned to get the public in on the celebration.

Phantom Farms, located at 2920 Diamond Hill Road, will host an event in conjunction with Rhode Island's Apple Harvest Day on Friday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m.

Kerri Stenovich is owner of the 8-acre Phantom Farms, as well as president of the organization that provides a network of support to area fruit growers.

She said old articles and documents from the early days will be on display, and there will be live apple cider-making demonstrations.

Participating farms will also hold free events and specials that weekend.

Knight Farm, 1 Snake Hill Road in North Scituate, will offer free samples of apple pie from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8.

The longevity of the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association, founded on March 19, 1913, speaks to its success.

"This group really works," Stenovich said, adding that instead of competing for business, the group collaborates.

They meet regularly to swap information and tips about weather, insects and diseases, and how to make the most out of the growing season.

She called Heather Faubert, a representative from University of Rhode Island, "a big asset," who travels from farm to farm to look for problems and offer advice.

"I love the Fruit Growers Association," said Faubert, who has been a member since 1982. "The growers work so hard to make this beautiful crop."

Joe Iaciofano, who owns Knight Farm, is new to farming, having taken over the farm a couple of years ago. He said the organization, especially Faubert, were helpful with his questions about getting started.

"It's kind of like, you know, a support group," he said, that keeps Knight Farm "growing and getting better."

Robert Leach, owner of Leach Farm in Greenville, is also new to growing, though his farm dates back to 1687.

"My place is historic," Leach said, and the association has helped bring it back to where it should be. "Orchards are a great tradition."

And one enjoyed by many come fall. Apple season is currently open, and most farms and orchards should start offering pick-your-own apples by mid-September.

Stenovich said unlike last year, when there was a freeze, "The crop is phenomenal this year."

One of the group's collaborative marketing efforts is the Rhode Island Farm Scavenger Hunt, now in its third year. Through Dec. 31, visit some of the 28 participating Rhode Island farms and match the picture clues. Earn stickers from at least 18 farms and be eligible for a prize.

Visit www.rifruitgrowers.org for more information.