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Family at the Core: Harvest begins at Luzerne County orchard

Fall is blowing in, which means it's harvest time for many orchards in our area. One orchard has been at it for nearly 200 years.

DALLAS, Pa. — Fall has blown in at Brace's Orchard near Dallas. Apples, ripe for the picking, stretch as far as the eye can see on the 200-acre orchard. It's closing in on two centuries of bountiful harvests.

Paul Brace represents the 9th generation.

"When it's fall, and it's cool like this, people just buy cider and apples," Brace said. "It's just been something that people have done for generations."

Delicious, juicy apples, larger this year from all the rain, are plucked from the trees and placed in bins.

Tractors stack and scoop up crates, each filled with about 20 bushels of apples (that's more than 1,000), all ready to be sorted.

But first, they're fed through a grading machine that scrubs and washes the apples before they tumble down the conveyor and are placed into crates for selling.

"I grade all the apples and go to markets," Brace said. "I've actually touched every apple since 1982 that was sold at Brace's Orchard."

The apples that don't make the sale floor are turned into gallons of cider or something a little harder.

"There's only about 50 gallons of cider in one of those big bins," Brace said. "So it takes a lot of apples to make cider."

That cider is also the key ingredient in Brace's famous apple cider donuts. They're fried and covered in sugar or cinnamon.

"Now we're baking the pies for [customers]," Brace said. "We make 14 different types of pies, they don't have to go through all the effort, and we bake them fresh every day."

Brace says the orchard has enjoyed a boom during the pandemic as more people look for fun outdoors. He hopes farms like his are feeling the same support.

"Support any family farm because if you don't, they'll go out of business, and that will be forever," Brace said. "They'll be extinct."

As Brace's welcomes its busiest season, it's also looking to the future, building a new winery to be opened in the spring.