JAY — Ninety-year-old Harold Souther of Livermore Falls quickly picked one Cortland apple after another Tuesday at the orchard at Berry Fruit Farm, as classical music sounded from his car.
Souther, a farmer and veteran apple-picker, filled a basket that hung from straps around his shoulders. He walked between the trees to the apple bin, already half-full of apples and lifted the metal portion of the basket over the wooden side. He let the apples gently go into the bin to avoid bruising them.
He had previously picked apples at the former Berry Hill Apple Orchard in Livermore and Seamon’s Apple Orchard in Jay.
This time he was helping Berry Fruit Farm owners, Joel and Melissa Gilbert of Jay, get the ripe apples picked before the season ends. Souther had picked apples for Joel Gilbert’s grandfather and great-grandfather at Berry Hill Orchard.
“I didn’t get a chance to pick blueberries this year, and I hoped I would get to pick apples,” Souther said. He was too busy baling more than 10,200 bales of hay followed by putting up his firewood for his residence at Souther Farm.
The picking basket holds a little more than half a bushel of apples. Joel Gilbert and Souther picked 80 bushels one afternoon last week. That is an average of about 3,200 pounds of apples, Gilbert said.
“The basket holds roughly 20 pounds when rounded up,” Souther said.
The most he picked in one day was 124 bushels. “I used to shoot for 75 bushels a day,” he said.
This basket when full would be too heavy for a youngster to carry, he said. But with the new knees he got two years ago, Souther said he is good to go. He carried the full basket easily.
Berry Fruit Farm, which runs a pick-your-own operation with multiple fruits, has plenty of apples to go around, including McIntosh, Gala and Honey Crisp.
Souther likes the classics.
“I’m from the old school,” Souther said. “I don’t like the new varieties.”