Raising apples and ski racing may not have much in common, but for third generation apple farmer Barney Hodges, the connection has everything to do with why he chose to become an apple farmer. “Racing taught me a lot about focusing, following your passion, doing what you believe,” says Hodges, a Nordic (cross-country) skier who raced professionally before turning to a successful career in geology. Eight years ago he joined his family apple business full-time and never looked back. “I love it,” he says.
Hodges is part of a family team –along with his father, Barney Sr., and his wife, Christiana—at Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vermont. Barney’s father planted the orchard in 1970. They now have 50,000 trees on 175 acres, a large orchard by New England standards. Their partnership with Red Tomato is an important part of their formula for success.
When Barney and Chris think about the “big questions,” like raising a family and making a life, they find the “big answers” right in front of them. Their three children, ages 3, 5, and 7, “basically live at the orchard,” helping with chores just as Barney and his sister did as kids. It’s a good life. “There are so many bad things you can do in farming, but we have the opportunity to take care of the land and do it right, and have the community be glad we are here.” Barney reflects.
Sunrise Orchard’s philosophy of growing apples is about being tenants and stewards of the land. “We don’t need to make a mark so much as this is what we’re doing at this time,” Barney says. “We need to work with all the creatures, including bugs.”
“If you want to live life to the fullest, to be happy doing what you care about, you just have to go for it.”