Keith Buhrmaster isn’t sure when apples were first grown in his family’s 20-acre field in Glenville, but it’s probably more than a century ago.
“The first trees I pulled out, my father told me they were, like, 80 years old, so that was 25 years ago,” said Buhrmaster, the third generation of Buhrmasters to run the farm.
Buhrmaster said his grandfather, Charles William Buhrmaster — who bought the orchard in 1926 — was the first in his family to grow apples at the corner of Swaggertown and Worden roads. Back then, it was all apples, but the number of trees dwindled over the years, making way for strawberries, raspberries and blueberries that are sold 11⁄2 miles away at Buhrmaster Farms on Route 50 and at farmers markets like the Schenectady Greenmarket.
The five acres of Macoun apple trees that remained were cut down by Buhrmaster’s employees over 10 recent days, with the last being chopped April 6. About 300 trees, ages 20 to 35, were cut down.
“As I watched them come down, I said, ‘Oh, there goes the end of an era on this corner,’ ” Buhrmaster said last week, looking over a field of stumps, apple wood piles and stray sticks that still decorate the field.
Passersby have already claimed some of the popular applewood, as well as some of the sticks for kindling.
A few years from now, the next generation, Buhrmaster’s son, James, daughter, Anna, or both, will grow berries on the land, a more economical crop for the area, Keith Buhrmaster said.
“Economics,” he said, describing the first reason for cutting down the trees. “And apple trees are hard to grow when you have a community like ours, with so many people close to the orchard.
“People want to see the nice apple trees, but they don’t want to see you taking care of them.”
He explained that for years, neighbors have complained about workers spraying the trees with crop protectant, a form of pesticide that gets into the air.
“We’ve been fighting that battle since we’ve been here, so I just decided I wasn’t going to fight it anymore,” he said.
Just about every time work was done at the orchard, he said, “whether it’s spraying a tree or driving a tractor on a road,” neighbors had something to say.
“In our town, they’re not … ” he said, trailing off. “They haven’t really bothered us, but they’re not ag-minded.”
He paused before adding, “It’s suburbia.”
Buhrmaster said when he took over the farm more than three decades ago, he did not think he would still be growing crops there to this day.
“When I started out, I didn’t give myself eight years,” he said. “That was 35 years ago. And now, I’m still here, and I’ve got another generation that wants to do something. They’ll be in the blueberry business.”
That’s because by the time a new batch of blueberries is in full production, seven or eight years from now, Buhrmaster, 58, said he won’t be around the farm too often.
He said the next step is to grind up the apple tree brush, which will be used as mulch for blueberries already growing in the expansive field. The former orchard will be plowed and used to grow beans or flowers in coming months, and in a few years, the ground will be ripe for berries.
The type of berry will vary based on demand, but Buhrmaster expects strawberries, which can only be grown so many years before the ground tires of them, to be planted there first.
“This is virgin strawberry ground,” Buhrmaster said with a grin.