Looking back, looking ahead…

I was thinking the other day about how long our family has been on this farm. And how long this farm has supported our family. Two things that I guess go hand in hand. The Moelker family has been selling farm products here for over 111 years. That always amazes me!

When my Grandpa, John Moelker first came to the Grand Rapids area from the Netherlands, he started with a small dairy farm near Breton road. He had a milk route, peddling dairy products through the streets of that area. A few years later, when he moved out to where the Moelker farm is today, he continued selling milk, but added fruits and vegetables to the mix. John even grew grapes and made communion wine for some of the local churches. All of this provided the income to raise 10 children here!

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A load of fresh peaches!

When my father, Jim Moelker took over and continued the farming operation, he too sold his produce here on the farm. He also went to the Fulton Street Market in Grand Rapids. I can remember when I was a kid, he would leave early in the morning on market days, and not return until suppertime. Some days were good, and he would sell out and be home early. Other days he would come home with much of his produce left. Occasionally I would get to go with him to the market. It was an adventure for me to go to the big city! It was work for him.

Sept 1959 Fulton Street Market
Jim, far right, at the market

In the early 1970’s, Dad decided to focus on selling to the public right here on the farm. He quit going to the market in town and built a refrigerated apple storage room with a place to sell from in the front of the building. No more travelling back and forth on market days. Now he could sell every day to  customers who came to the farm. My mother, Donna became a big part of the on farm market as well. Customers came out to get fresh cherries, peaches, pears and apples right from the farm. Mom was a great source of information on how to use that fruit, telling people how to freeze, can, make pies, applesauce and desserts. We also supplied several area grocery stores with fresh fruit to pass on to their customers.

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The new apple storage building! 1970

My wife Bonnie and I, along with our children have worked for years now to continue the Moelker family business. It is such a rewarding experience getting to know so many of you, and helping you enjoy the fruits of our labor. Pun intended! Some of you have just discovered Moelker Orchards, but others of you were  coming here before I was born! We know that without all of you, our friends and customers, Moelker Orchards would not be what it is today. You are a blessing to us!

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So this week Saturday, we want to show our appreciation to all of you. It is our annual Customer Appreciation Day. Come in and visit with us. Enjoy a cold cup of cider and a fresh warm donut “on the house.” Several products will be on sale, including our handmade pies. But most of all, just come in to say “Hi.” We will all be here to thank you for your support for us over the years. God willing, we will continue these friendships for years to come!

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker     tompic

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Go west young (and old) man!

Sometimes we spend so much time in our own little world, that we lose track of how others live their lives. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it is natural for us to be focused on our immediate surroundings day after day. The busyness of our jobs, the intricacies of our closest relationships, the demands of our time all combine to narrow our focus and shrink our view. Or maybe that’s just true of me.

Last week my son Travis and I expanded our view a little. We traveled west to Nebraska to meet some new friends that we had never met before. And we drove through a lot of places we had never seen before, some big cities, and some very, very small towns. It was an uncertain adventure of sorts. While I had talked with our host several times on the phone, we had never met. But our conversations had an easy flow to them, and I was confident that we would get along well. I wasn’t disappointed. We were welcomed like old friends, and over the course of our week of hunting with this man and his colleagues, we forged a friendship that I hope lasts a long time. It was a blessing!

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This week we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. And while we all have reasons for thanks, sometimes we have to fight off the reasons not to be thankful. We can all list off the easy, common things that we are thankful for: homes and friends and family and health, but it is harder when one of those “big ones” is missing or afflicted. A serious illness. The loss of a dear one.  Situations like that can easily sap all of the thanks from our lives, if we let them. But thanks is not a light that you turn on or off, depending on what is happening in your life. Thanks should be a warm glow, that may ebb and flow with the tide of events in our lives, but never goes completely out.  Sometimes we have to force ourselves to count our blessings, though at times they may seem few. But the result of that process can be a blessing in itself: the realization that God IS still there, and He DOES still care. That is a hard thing to affirm in the middle of what seems to be a hopeless situation. But if you can truly give those fears and doubts and “thankless” moments to Him, He will give you peace. I promise.

So find some things to be thankful for this week. It may come easily, or it may be hard to do, depending on your situation. But the words of that old hymn are true:

“Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”

Have a fruitful (and thankful) week!

Tom Moelker  tompic

Wrapping up

Well the harvest is nearly over for the year. It seems to have taken a long time for some reason. We are planning on picking our last fruit today–Pink Lady apples. A funny name for an apple that is the last one to the table!

The end of the harvest always brings mixed feelings for me. I’m excited that the whole year’s work has accomplished it’s goal. It is a blessing to look back and see that in spite of challenges of weather and the fickleness of some of the fruits we grow, we have once again brought a crop to completion. The blessings of sun and rain and growth seem to come in different amounts and timings every year. Some years they fit together perfectly and producing a crop seems easy. Other years their timings, shortages, or overabundance leave us frustrated and struggling to figure out how we will ever make ends meet. But after harvest, when we have the time to look back over the season and reflect, each year it seems that in spite of our challenges and shortcomings we still have been blessed. And being able to recognize that is a blessing in itself.

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So now we try to wrap up the tasks that need to be done before the snow flies. Gathering ladders and empty apple bins and tucking them away inside. Mowing the grass in the orchards short to give the tree chewing mice less places to hide this winter. Applying nutrients to tired trees that have given their best to produce a crop for us. Tidying up the buildings that have been seriously neglected in all of our harvest-time busyness. But it is a different pace now that the fruit is picked. The long and frenzied days spent getting the fruit off and stored away are finished. While there is still work to do, the atmosphere is a little more relaxed and the pace is a lot less frantic. Which is good for all of us. As the annual cycle of the farm comes to completion, we can look over the season and see God’s faithfulness reflected once again. All of the “Why doesn’t it rain?!” times this summer, that morphed into “When is it ever going to stop raining?” this fall, become almost funny when we think about it. “O ye of little faith!” Yup. Sometimes that’s us. But in this farming business we get an annual post harvest time for a faith checkup. And while sometimes it is hard to recognize the good that came out of the season, it is always there. We just have to look a little deeper to find it.

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker      tompic

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. The word brings with it a hundred different memories. Flashes of times past, aromas of expansive and sumptuous dinners. Gatherings of family and relatives for a once a year celebration. Just the memories alone are something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving for me is a time of reflection. Maybe it is for all farmers. Because just as the first Thanksgiving dinner long ago was a grateful celebration of God’s gifts of harvest and life itself, a farmer still sees it that way. At least this one does. It is a time for me and my family to count the many blessings we have, and to replay the ups and downs of the past growing season and harvest. Another year has past. Another crop is in. The most recent occurrence in this annual cycle has been the completion of another season of gathering in the crops. That in itself inspires thanks. Another crop, another gift and reward  for our labors. It is easy to be thankful in times like this.

It is tougher to be thankful when things are not as they should be. Sometimes the crop isn’t as bountiful. Sometimes it doesn’t come in at all. Sometimes our health is not what it should be. A relationship has been fractured, or is on a rocky path. Or a loved one will not be at the table this year, taken from us much too soon. In times like this our thanks, if we can even find it, comes through tears. Sometimes giving thanks is hard work.

But God is gracious, and we don’t have to look far to find reasons for thanksgiving. The friends and family that surround us. The joyful giggle of a child, playing a goofy game they have played with you a hundred times before. Or watching your grown children make good decisions as they jump into adult life. Sometimes our blessings are as big and obvious as the world itself. Sometimes they seem to be few and far between. But the truth is, no matter what our situation is in life, we all have reason to be thankful. Whether our “crop” is bountiful or seemingly scarce, our Creator walks with us through the harvest. And as another season comes to an end, we can be sure He will go with us through all the seasons of our lives.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving! (and a fruitful week too!)

Tom Moelker

What’s next?

Well the harvest is in, and things around the farm have settled down from the peak frenzy of October. Overall this season went well. We had a good harvest crew, and with the dry fall we were able to stay on track as the apples matured–no rain days to put us behind! It always is a good feeling to have the crop tucked away inside the coolers.

But while the pace slows down some, there is still a lot of work to be completed before winter sets in. Everything needs to be mowed to reduce the hiding places of tree-nibbling mice and rabbits. Weed spray will help that too. Tree trellis wires need to be checked and tightened after a heavy crop load has weighed them down. Equipment maintenance that may have been put off during the business of harvest now has to be taken care of. We have to winterize all of the irrigation lines and wells before freezing temps set in. Ladders, apple boxes and picking equipment all have to be gathered up and stored away for the winter. And the buildings on the farm need to be cleaned up and reorganized after a hectic fall’s work. My son Travis is good at that. I’m more of a “toss is aside, we’ll deal with it later” kind of guy. He likes to have things organized. Maybe that’s why I’m always asking him where things are!

The trees need attention too. After working so hard and using up so much energy to produce a nice crop, we give them a good foliar nutrient mix to perk them up before winter. We don’t want them to be tired and hungry before going to bed! Another thing that helped the trees during the drought this fall was the irrigation system. I have never watered the trees so late into the fall as I did this season. The lack of rain in August, September and much of October this year had the potential to keep the fruit small, and really stress the trees going into winter. But with the ability to keep the orchards watered we could keep the trees happy through harvest. And then, towards the end of October, we finally got rain! Bunches of it! And the soil soaked it up almost as fast as it came down. What a blessing!

So now that the days are shorter. The sun goes down around dinnertime. The apple crop is in. And we can put another season in the books. It’s funny how when we get to this point, all of the work, all of the troubles, the frost and the drought and the hail that we endured over the course of the season, seem like a distant memory. I guess that is a blessing we can count, along with all of the others that we give thanks for each day.

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker

Thanks for the memories

Thanksgiving. You know the history. The holiday was established way back when the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in 1621. So for a farmer it has a special meaning that ties us closely to the original celebration. Perhaps we farmers just feel a little more pilgrimmy(is that a word?) on Thanksgiving Day.

I always am annoyed by the way the marketing folks have twisted the purpose of the celebration. Words like “Thanksgetting” and “Thanksgathering” are substituted to try to sell products and change the focus of the day. It’s all about turkey and football and shopping it seems. Kinda drives me crazy. Why can’t we just have a day to thank our Creator for sustaining us through another year? Isn’t that why the holiday was established, after all? Ok, enough already. I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday for me. Perhaps because I grew up on a farm it did have that added sense of celebration. But 30 years ago this Thanksgiving week my dad, Jim Moelker, passed away after a very short battle with a very aggressive cancer. It was tough for all of us to lose him, and even though it has been a long time I can still remember that day as though it was yesterday. It made for a very difficult Thanksgiving week that year, and though time has eased the loss over the years, there is always a tinge of sadness attached to the season for me now. It didn’t seem fair at the time, and though my sense of “fair” has matured over the years it still touches my heart. Dad was a man who taught by example more than by words, and my knowledge of growing fruit for the most part came from him. He and my mom sacrificed a lot to raise us five children and teach us what was right. I don’t think we ever realized that at the time though. Working beside him every day created a different dynamic for me. Not only as father and son, but also teacher and student and perhaps even boss and employee? But we also fished, hunted and snowmobiled together and I learned a lot of life lessons from him. A multi-faceted relationship to say the least!

Jim and Tom July 1983
Jim and Tom July 1981

The years since dad passed have taught me that thanksgiving isn’t just a reaction we feel quickly when we receive something we like. It goes much deeper than that. It is a peace, a quiet calmness that comes from knowing that whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, God is there too, working on our behalf. And while we can’t always see it, I certainly didn’t back then, that knowledge can keep us truly thankful in good times or bad. Isn’t that what the holiday is really about?

So I hope you take some time to reflect on the people in your life this Thanksgiving season. They have been put there for a reason, and in many ways, great and small, they are a blessing to you. And take time to be a blessing to them too!

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In memory of Jim Moelker 1924-1986

Have a fruitful (and thankful) week!

Tom Moelker