Monday, July 9, 2012

Lucky Leaf Orchard trip Part 2 #LuckyLeafLuckyMe

So today is the day to visit the orchards that grow the delicious fruit that is used in the Lucky Leaf pie filling.
When you link of pie filling do you think of fresh fruit? Well I never did either until now. Did you know that the fruit that is used in Lucky Leaf cherry pie fillings are from cherries fresh from a cherry tree?

Well more on that later.....

I was very fortunate to be able to go on a great trip to the Lucky leaf Orchards in Peach Glen PA, check out the first day on the trip to the orchards post. The second day would be the day that would be filled with information and orchard activities.  Myself and other bloggers were given the chance to check out the activities of Knouse Foods/Lucky Leaf.  What a great experience, one I will not forget.

The 2nd day started out early with a bus tour of the cherry orchards, Gene Livelsberger,  who is a field representative, gave us an informative tour of the orchards. Lucky for us we came during cherry season, and for those cherry lovers  out there did you know that cherry picking season is only about 2 weeks each season. Wow, the farmers really have to get so much done in such a short window, Because of the bad conditions in other states the cherry crop was a bit low this season, the farmers for Lucky Leaf made sure to step up, and try to get out as many cherries to the cherry lovers out there. But they will come a bit short.  So if you see a rise in prices for cherry filling, you will now know why, here is a tip, go and pick up some cans now before the prices rise just to have some in stock.

We waked through the cherry fields, what a picture lover’s dream. We walked through the fields learning out how they pick the cherries, and tasting a few of the way (of course) the cherries were tart and sweet so very delicious.  So how do they get the cherries off of the trees? Well they used to have to have several people at a time gently grab at the cherry and have them fall into a bucket, and do this over and over again to harvest the cherries. But not anymore, the cherry “picking” is so much cooler these days, there is a  machine that shakes the trunk of the cherry tree and the cherries fall and are collected. This is just amazing to see, you see the tree shake like crazy and the cherries are off, it was pretty cool. I tried to tape this, but I was using my camera wrong! Ugh! I wish I could have shared this cool process with you all, but here is a picture to check it out.

The cherries are moved up the belt and are put in boxes of ice to insure freshness, the cooled boxes are then sent up to the factory to get ready to be pitted (by a neat machine that pokes a hole in the cherry so the pit is removed) and get ready for your pie filling.

Are you like me, and never really thought that the fruit came fresh from the trees and then is sent right to the factory for canning. I just never thought of canned pie fruit as fresh fruit. But it really is fresh from the orchard to the factory then to the cans the cherries are added, then the other sweeteners  etc are added this is what make the filling extra delicious, and they cherries are cooked in the cans and cooled labeled and sent off to the stores. It is a fascinating process that makes me love the Lucky leaf brand even more.

Did you know that since 1949, Lucky Leaf has operated with three CEOs, yes only three. That is amazing these days when you hear companies changing hands all the time.  We were treated to a lunch Q&A with the CEO and the vice president of the company, they were down to earth guys who loved their jobs. They were very informative, and they seemed to enjoy asking us questions about us, as much as we enjoyed asking them questions about  Knouse.  Another neat fact, the 1500+ employees of Knouse many are family members, family that stays with the company because they love the ideals of the company, they know that the products are quality. From the strict quality control to the care that the farmers have to their products, to the line workers who love where they work, and stand behind the product that they make.

Here is a group shot of the bloggers, including ( from left to right) Paula – Bell’Alimento, The farmers daughter Sarah Lott, Susan W – DoughMessTic, Dawn – Not Just A Mommy, Alicia – The Mama Report, Me! – Susan’s Disney Family, Charley – Cooke’s Frontier, Randi – A Lucky Ladybug  And the tall man in the back is the owner of the lovely cherry orchard Jim Lott.

We were also invited to the cold storage plant, and yes it was freezing in there! We learned that the company can put apples to “sleep” by taking most of the oxygen out of the air, and this can keep apples fresh for up to 2 years (they have never kept the apples for 2 years though, mostly they are kept for a year) here is a picture of the “sleeping” apples, a very interesting way to keep apples fresh .

The room is 31-36 degrees this is the sleeping condition. Putting them to sleep stops the apples from rotting, ripening or growing.

The great folks at Knouse are always looking for ways to help the environment and these solar fields can provide up to 30% of the electricity for the plant. That is wonderful, a way to help mother earth. Lucky Leaf s is very environmentally friendly which is always great  to hear. They really use all of the cherry, even the pits! They try not to let a lot go to waste. With the pits, they could be made into stuffing for pillows, like the kid you see in the malls the ones you heat up to soothe muscle pain. Now that is making sure you get everything out of an item, that is wonderful.

We were able to try various pie fillings from Lucky Leaf. Some were old favorites, like apple and cherry. But did you know that they also have a dark sweet cherry pie filling? Well I never knew this and I am so glad I know now! This pie filling is simply divine. The dark sweet cherry pie filling from Lucky Leaf is by far my favorite pie filling flavor of all time! You simply have to pick this up if you see it. I have never seen this flavor locally but I hope I will in the future.

Apricot filling anyone, lemon filling? Raisin? Yes raisin, and it was delicious. What a great selection of pie fillings, and they were all sweet and delicious. I am looking forward to trying some new flavors in some new recipes in the future, make sure to check back the my blog to find some more great Lucky Leaf recipes in the future.

Knouse Foods provides most of the country with the Musselman's and Lucky Leaf Brands, the company and plant is so large that they have their own zip code! Peach Glen PA is primarily Knouse foods, isn’t that amazing?

Knouse Foods, is a grower owned cooperative. If you do not know what a grower owned cooperative, this is when the growers own the business, you can’t buy stock in Knouse foods, because the growers own it. It is a great thing, you really find farmers  love what they do, and they want to give you the best products that they can give.  And it is nice to see that family owned companies are still out there, it was nice to see this.
It was a great trip and I wish that I could go back, I had such a nice time. I just want to thank Lucky Leaf, they were amazing, and everyone running the trip was very nice and helpful. After I returned I was in a baking mood, and I made some Sweet Summer Strawberry Muffins using Lucky Leaf strawberry pie filling… I will be posting the pictures and the recipe soon. Stay tuned!

I hope you enjoyed my picture trip through the orchards as much as I did.

Make sure to check out the great recipes on the Lucky Leaf site, and like them on Facebook and follow them on twitter for more information. 


Disclosure: The reviews and or opinions on this blog are my own opinions . Lucky leaf provided me with the trip to the orchards.  Lucky Leaf generously paid for my hotel stay, food, etc. Even though I did receive a free stay, all opinions are my own. No monitory compensation was received. I was not required to write a positive review. Your experience may differ. The opinions I have expressed are my own I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising .

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Disclosure: The reviews and or opinions on this blog are my own opinions, . No compensation was received. All opinions are my own. This is a unofficial fan site that is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or Disney theme parks.