Posted: January 27, 2017

Ph.D. student Phillip Martin organized a Jan. 27 PPEM group tour to learn about the fruit industry in Adams County.

PPEM dept. members on tour at Knouse Foods | Image: Kari Peter, Penn State University

PPEM dept. members on tour at Knouse Foods | Image: Kari Peter, Penn State University


On behalf of the Plant Pathology Association Ph.D. student Phillip Martin organized a trip to Adams County to visit the Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC) and two local Industries important for apple processing and packing: Knouse Foods and Rice Fruit.

Dr. Kari Peter, Assistant Professor of Tree Fruit Pathology, hosted PPEM Ph.D. candidate Laura del Sol Bautista Jalón, Ph.D. students Phillip Martin, Emma Rosenthal, and Justin Shih, and Visiting Scholar Dr. Yongho Jeon on the tour.

Mr. Lee Showalter, Rice Fruit Manager of Food Safety and Grower Services, showed the group the process by which Rice Fruit sorts and packs about 2.2 to 2.5 million bushels of apples per year, including the Gala apples being sorted and packed that day.

Mr. Scott Briggs, Knouse Foods Vice President of Human Resources and Communications, introduced the Peach Glen processing plant, which makes a variety of pie fillings, among other products. PPEM members observed pie-filling processing from start to finish, tasted apple pie filling, sweet cherry dessert, and pineapple dessert in Knouse's Quality Control Dept., and drank fresh apple juice at the end of the tour.

The PPEM group learned that food safety is a primary concern at Rice Fruit and Knouse Foods and noted the considerable effort put forth to provide a clean environment. Tour members saw that both plants use high-tech sorting machinery in addition to human employees to sort out blemished apples.

Before closing out the day with a visit to FREC, PPEM members enjoyed lunch at Tania's Mexican Restaurant, one of Pennsylvania's most authentic Mexican restaurants. Tania's serves the relatively large local Hispanic population, a sizeable number of whom the fruit industry employs.

Rice Fruit Company is the largest apple-packing facility in the Eastern half of the United States. Situated in the heart of Pennsylvania's prime orchard country, the company receives, stores, and annually packs more than a million boxes of high-quality fresh Pennsylvania apples for retailers such as Walmart, Costco's, and Whole Foods.

Knouse Foods is a large grower-owned cooperative, operating six processing plants (five in Pennsylvania and one in Michigan), and processing about nine million bushels of apples per year, in addition to some other fruits such as sour cherries. Knouse Foods brands include Lucky Leaf, Musselmans, Apple Time, Lincoln, Speas Farm, and specialty products produced for companies such as Cracker Barrel.

Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC) in Biglerville occupies 180 acres of fertile land in south-central Pennsylvania in the heart of the major tree fruit production area of the state. In addition to providing site-specific conditions for research, the facility increases opportunities for growers, consultants, consumers, and students to observe experiments and to consult with scientists, such as Drs. Kari Peter from Plant Pathology, Jim Schupp from Horticulture, and Greg Krawczyk and David Biddinger from Entomology.