An Orchard's Sweet Aroma
The first sign of spring at Machado Orchards in Auburn, Calif., is the big blimp-shaped balloon with "Cherries" printed on its side.
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The locals have come to recognize the balloon as a signal that the aroma of fruit pies will soon fill the air.
For five years, Greg Garretson lived across the street and downwind of the pie stand.
"It was torture," says Garretson, who now lives in Colfax, Calif. "The smells that would come out of this place and drift across the road were wonderful."
His favorites? Raspberry and boysenberry. "They are heaven," he says. "They didn't often have boysenberry, but when they did, I was over here a lot."
In the spring it's cherry pie, followed by apricot, peach, apple, pumpkin and berry of all kinds. "You can tell the change of seasons by the way the pie stand smells," says Garretson.
The man filling the air with these wonderful aromas is Gary Machado, the grandson of Joe and Constance Machado, who bought the orchard in 1926. Although it's been a struggle, the family has managed to farm this same 17-acre orchard by sheer love and determination. Gary and his sister, Susie Krezman, are the third generation of Machados in charge. Their four children, who help with making caramel apples and selling fruit, are next in line.
"Grandma and Grandpa were from the Azores, off Portugal," says Gary Machado. "They farmed this land until Grandpa died in the early '60s. Then Mom and Dad (Gil and Bobbi Machado) took over. In the beginning, all the fruit was sold through a broker in Sacramento. Then Mom and Dad opened the fruit stand around 1979."
Times were hard in the '60s. A pear disease wiped out most of the pear trees in the county. It was really tough to get going again, so Gil and Bobbi worked away from the farm. Gil worked in construction and she worked at a bank. They spent every weekend and evening in the orchard, replanting and taking care of the trees. Eventually they were able to quit their outside jobs and spend all of their time working in the orchard.
A few years after the stand opened, Gary decided to expand into the pie business. There was just one problem: He had never baked a pie. So he turned to an expert — his mom — for lessons.
"The first day, I made 17 pies," Gary says. "I was exhausted, and I didn't think we'd ever make enough money to keep it up. It was a lot more work than I ever anticipated. The next day, I made 30 pies. Then I started looking for ways to streamline the operation."
He bought an antique apple peeler and restored it to use in the bakery. Then he made a mechanical cherry pitter that pits 212 cherries per minute. Next he built a dough mixer that would cut the shortening into the flour. Finally, he created a machine that would stamp perfect bottom crusts into disposable pie tins.
"I still haven't figured out how to make a top crust without having to roll it out by hand," he laments.