EZ Orchards has always been one of my favorite Salem places.
The farm grows apples, pears and hazelnuts among other things. It operates one of the most popular stands in the area, selling seasonal shortcakes and donuts. Of course there’s the ever-present apple cider.
As an intern at the paper I filled in for the departing entertainment reporter near the end, meaning it was my job to put together Halloween events. That year it meant a tour through the EZ Orchards pumpkin patch and corn maze.
Since then we’ve been back every year, but today we got a closer look as part of a Friends of Salem Saturday Market tour.
Mark Zielinski, grandson of orchard founder Ed Zielinski* and head of farming operations now, gave us a detailed tour of the orchards.
*”That’s the EZ,” Mark said. “Not very creative, but you get a name into the marketplace, and well, we’re probably not going to be changing it now.”
While Nicole was fascinated by the farming practices and differences concerning varieties, Mark’s difficulties with the weather this year struck me, as it’s something I’ve heard from everyone in agriculture in Oregon.
The biggest concern for Mark right now is the pumpkins. While people will put up with cherries not being ready for July Fourth or something like that, a pumpkin is pretty worthless on Nov. 1.
“Mother Nature doesn’t keep a calendar,” he said later.
Right now most of the pumpkins are pretty solid green, he said, making the next four weeks a little nerve-racking. It’ll be interesting to see how EZ and other farms in the area deal with it, especially if some of these patches have far fewer than expected, especially when Safeway and places such as that will bus in bright orange pumpkins from all over the country every day.
Mark also spoke about the new hard cider operations, something they started in 2009. While something they expect to make money for the farm, he also said that after 32 years in the business it’s nice to have something new to play with.
We finished off the trip with a peach shortcake and strawberry lemonade smoothie on a bench in the shade, capping off the day with how we normally start an EZ visit. Not a bad way to start a weekend.