An Apple Heritage

Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else. – Fred Rogers

Just ask Deerfield Resident Bill Metts about the “something else.” Bill drives down to Henderson County every week to volunteer with a Master Pomology Program. Pomology is the science of growing fruits and Bill works with apples. NC is the eighth largest apple producer in the country, supplying about 4 million bushels or 150 million pounds in any given year. Eighty percent of those apples come from Henderson County. It is no surprise that apple research is important to growers and understanding some of the history and technology that goes into that research is fascinating. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created cooperative extension services with agricultural colleges to share research with farmers. Henderson County’s Master Pomology Program is one of these extensions. The apple trees where Bill volunteers are donated from nurseries around the country (mostly in the northeast). If the trees prosper, data is gathered and the information is public, posted online for all growers to see. Trends change over time from this data. For example, orchards are now planting their dwarf rootstock about 12 feet apart and pruning them for this new spacing. Testing the pressure of the skin (pounds per square inch) is one indicator of the best time to harvest. Another is testing the percentage of sugar. An apple is cut in half horizontally and then the bottom half is sprayed with an iodine solution. If the apple turns black then the fruit’s starch has not yet converted to sugar and needs more time before harvest. If you’re interested in the amazing data produced by this program, visit their website:

When asked about his interest in volunteering at the orchard, Bill said, “I always wanted to be part of something that’s bigger than me.”