5 Questions with Allie Corcoran, owner of Backyard Orchards

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 17, 2013 

Allie Corcoran

SUBMITTED

Where is Backyard Orchards and what do y'all do?

Backyard Orchards was opened by my sister, Cassie Young, and myself in 2009. When we were younger, our parents managed a peach orchard, inspiring us to start our own orchard. It took a few years of planning and research but it soon became a reality. Strawberries, peaches, blueberries and pumpkins are the orchard's primary crops, but we grow fresh vegetables including sweet corn, okra, peas, beans, squash, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and more. We also added a Fall Festival.

Beginning the last weekend in September running the entire month of October, customers can come pick their own pumpkin from the patch -- yes, it is a real patch -- enjoy a wagon ride, play on our giant tractor tires, pick cotton from the field and play in a trough full of corn.

The Orchard is currently expanding. Work has started this winter on an indoor market featuring a kitchen, retail space, restrooms and covered porch. There will also be a space for an agriculture education center and meeting room to rent out to local businesses and groups.

We hope this building will help Backyard Orchards to continue growing and remain open year-round. Backyard Orchards is located on Highway 431 South, about 40 minutes from Columbus and about 15 minutes north of Eufaula.

You have spent several years selling at the Uptown Market Days in Columbus. Has that been successful for your business?

Market Days has been a great success for us. We are excited to bring our produce every Saturday and have developed a good relationship with many of the local people. Market Days is by far our best market and many times we've had to bring two truckloads or call the farm to get them to bring more produce because we sold out so fast. We are privileged to be a part of it.

You come from a farming family. How has farming changed from your grandfather's time until today?

This is a big question. Farming has seen so many changes since my grandfather started farming in the 1950s. Through research and technology, farmers are growing more crops on less acres.

When my grandfather was young they were still picking cotton by hand and stacking peanuts. Now they have a machine that not only picks cotton, but compacts the cotton into round bales, a job that just a few years ago would've taken seven men and four cotton pickers is now a one man show.

Now, instead of hauling peanuts in red wagons behind a truck, they are loading them straight from the field in semi-trucks trailers. Also farmers are using GPS technology to guide tractors, preventing overlapping when spraying crops, which leads to less and more efficient use of chemicals. Another thing that's changed is the importance of water. There's a big focus on irrigation. Having irrigation systems takes away some of the risk of planting crops. We can now store water and use it when we need it during dry weather. Now fields that would have burnt up during the hot summer can get the water they need.

You seem to have found a niche with strawberries and peaches. How did you come to focus on these crops?

Growing up the family had a peach orchard. My parents would have us three girls in the orchard picking peaches to take to market in Eufaula early Saturday morning. So we knew we could grow them. Strawberries were something we'd pick when we went on vacation. We enjoyed going to farms to pick the fresh fruit.

We did a lot of research and decided that we could grow them. We also grow blueberries and have just as much success with them. Our idea is to provide farm experience for families, and these types of fruits are in high demand in our area.

What is the best kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

Lakepoint State Park and the refuge. My family always goes to Lakepoint for Sunday lunch and my nephew loves playing on their playground.

There's so much there to do that not a lot of people know about. Take a stroll through the refuge and see alligators, play tennis, go swimming, have a picnic or go fishing. There's a lot to do for any outdoorsmen.

VITAL STATS

Name: Allie Corcoran

Age: 26

Job: Co-owner/produce manager at Backyard Orchards

Hometown: Eufaula, Ala.

Current home: Eufaula, Ala.

Family: Parents, Walt and Kim Corcoran; two sisters, Cassie and Sunnie. Cassie and I own Backyard Orchards.

Education: Auburn University, Bachelor of Science in agricultural communications

Favorite book: “Gone With the Wind”

Favorite movie: “Gone With the Wind”

Favorite restaurant: River City Grill in Eufaula

Favorite quote: Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of the farm or country fill his heart. — Unknown

Best concert attended: I’ll catch a lot of flak for this but Backstreet Boys when I was younger.

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