Free pickers damage orchard
An act of generosity backfired on the owners of a local orchard who offered to give some of their peaches away for free.
Don and Marilyn Schanaman, new owners of the orchard at 3415 C 1/2 Road formerly called Rancho Fruita, were unable to sell their first crop of peaches because of small size. Rather than have the fruit go to waste, the Schanamans offered the fruit for free to those willing to pick.
As word spread, the orchard was soon overrun with people wanting free fruit. They did their best to manage traffic and parking in the days following an article which ran in the Aug. 4 edition of The Daily Sentinel.
“At first people were pretty respectful but then there was a huge mass and it began spiraling downhill,” Marilyn said.
Within days, the peaches were gone but people kept coming. The Schanaman’s posted clear signs stating the peaches were gone, the orchard was closed, and no trespassing was allowed.
Despite the signs, many still knocked on the Schanaman’s door, angry that the peaches were gone. One person threw rocks. Others drove their vehicles into the orchard, hitting a tree and breaking pipes, which will cost more to replace than was given in donations for the peaches. “It cost us a lot to give away free peaches,” Marilyn said.
People also took apples, which were never offered to the public, and began picking through the neighbor’s peach orchard as well. “Imagine my embarrassment,” Marilyn said.
“I’m just really disappointed,” she said, “90 percent of those who came were great but that other 10 percent were just crazy.”
Needless to say, the Schanaman’s won’t be giving away peaches in the future, Marilyn said.
They will, however, open their new business, Eta Pi, in time for Thanksgiving. They’re hoping that the 90 percent of great people who visited their orchard this summer will stop by to buy a pie.