The Apple Boom

The Apple Boom: 1880-1910

In almost every southern state massive plantings of apple trees took place as the South prepared to be the main provider of apples to the burgeoning industrial cities of America and Europe. Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia were caught up in the apple boom, but the greatest boom of all took place in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. By 1890 Arkansas had 2,000,000 bearing apple trees, and this increased to over 7,000,000 trees in 1910. Benton County alone had 2,000,000 trees in 1910, more than any other county in the nation.

Until about 1880 apples were grown on North Carolina farms in small orchards, only big enough to feed a farmer and his family.  With the expansion of the railroads across the state came the opportunity to cultivate apples as a commercial crop.  For about thirty years after 1880 millions of bushels of apples were grown throughout the south and shipped to other parts of the country.  By 1910, at the height of the Apple Boom, North Carolina was producing ten million bushels of apples for sale.  Apple orchards had become big business.

The boom was not to last. Over production, poorly sited orchards, falling prices after World War I, and competition, especially from the West Coast, doomed the southern apple boom. Add to this the rapid decline in popularity of the Ben Davis apple (the main apple of the southern boom), and the contraction of southern apple orcharding was quick and painful. The Southern apple industry would never recover in size or influence.