Selling apples a family affair

Delicious warm smells of baking apple pie invite you to linger while the last golden brown pies are removed from a large bakery oven. The place is one of many barns selling apples and apple products during the fall Apple Hill Festival in Camino, Calif.

Although most of these "barns" are run by local growers, Kids Inc. is run by young people. The six Delfino children, who run this business, learned their farming skills in 4-H clubs. The older Delfino youngsters started applying this knowledge to the business world about 14 years ago.

At various stages there has been much help and guidance from parents Edio and Joan Delfino. Children ae Michael, Joan, Annie, Chris, Margo, Mary, and Edio Jr. Joan is married to Gary Brown, who also works part time for Kids Inc. The ages range from 13 to 24.

The beginning in 1964 had the trappings of a traditional child's lemonade stand. Instead of lemonade, they sold gourds, squash, and Indian corn from their garden. The "store" was a roadside school-bus-stop shelter. Gradually, they added bales of hay for additional displays. As the yeas passed, business continued to increase, especially when several apple growers from the community developed the Apple Hill Festival.

The Delfinos seized upon this opportunity for increased customers by building a large lean-to. Apples from the family orchard were added to the line of produce. Later, a small barnlike building was built for baking and serving apple pies, apple fritters, and apple cakes, plus apples, squash, sunflower seeds, pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn.

The only problem was the lack of seating for the purchasers of the over 175 pies, 350 cakes, and 75 dozen fritters sold during an average fall weekend day. Kids Inc. developed the "walking pie," a miniature pie you can easily eat with just your hands while browsing at the boxes of produces.

The customers may also stroll through a nearby pumpkin patch and pick their own pumpkins while enjoying the peaceful stillness of the surrounding blue skies , mountain air, apple orchrds, and evergreen country hillside.

Word of mouth and several apple feature stories in local newspaper have attracted an ever-increasing number of people. "In fact, says Annie Delfino, "sometimes people will wait in line for an hour for a slice of pie.

The Delfinos though this wait too long, so they expanded again by purchasing an army-surplus 60-pie-capacity field oven. A large deep-fat frying machine, which is usually operated by Margo and May, is used for making apple fritters.

The group has also gained experience with other commercial equipment. For years they exchanged cider for time on a neighbor's automatic apple peeler. Recently, they bought an automaic peeler that pels about 3 apples every 7 seconds. About 3000 pounds of apples can be peeled in an hour and a half, a vast improvement over hand peeling. The family buys time on an automatic packing line, which buffs and sizes the apples for boxing.

The present business sells over 250 pies, 450 cakes, 100 dozen fritters, and numerous pumpkins, squash, gourds, and boxes of apples in one weekend day. ITs owners attribute this success to intensive study of growing techniques along with reinvesting all their beginnign profits in the business. "It helps to have a father like ours, too," added Annie.

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