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From seed to table: The autumn harvest

By Alison Perelman, For The Miami Student

More than a dozen people crowd around the two tables where Scott Downing sells his apples at the Oxford Farmer's Market. He's there every Saturday morning, rain or shine, with bushels of apples, honey, apple butter and never enough cider.

Potential customers are allowed to taste any of the 11 different kinds of apples before deciding which to buy.

A few months ago, during the summer, Scott brought the other fruits and vegetables that are grown on the Downing Fruit Farm. He didn't sell as many apples over the summer, but now, in the middle of fall, it's peak apple season.

"Right now is the middle of it, the heart of it," said Scott. "Especially when it's cool out, it's the perfect time to sell apples and cider."

Scott is a seventh generation apple farmer. The Downing farm was established 178 years ago and is still going strong.

Among its 2,500 fruit trees, the Downing Farm grows 75 different apple varieties, seven of which they've developed themselves over the years.

The apples are the base for its nationally known cider.

"Best cider in the United States," said Scott proudly.

Downing Apple Cider is made from several kinds of apples, giving it a unique taste. The apples that aren't cosmetically appealing get picked for the cider - they are washed, brushed, ground to a pulp and squeezed into juice. No water or sugar is added

The Downing Cider has won the National Cider Contest and people from all over the country call Scott to have it shipped right to their door.

The apple butter is specially made, too. The Downings use golden delicious apples and cook them in their own cider.

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"Most people boil the apples with water," said Scott. "We use cider to boil them. And what that does is it gives it a really nice flavor, and I don't have to add any sugar or preservatives."

Not everyone buys apple butter from the Downings, though. Lisa Loragin prefers to make her own.

At the Farmer's Market, Lisa bought wine sap apples with the intention of making apple butter and apple pie.

"I make it every fall … just for my family," Lisa said, "I have a recipe for apple pie that I follow that I've been using for years. It's called apple crumble pie. And then I have a recipe for apple butter that I make in the crock pot with spices all day long."

Scott appreciates his customers and the community in Oxford. He sells at five other farmers markets throughout the week, and provides produce to Miami University and several local stores.

"I wouldn't sell something that I don't feel like is of the best quality down here because they appreciate that and they will stand in line," said Scott. "Not one person will complain, and they'll wait because they know they're going to get a good product."

Scott believes his apples are the best price and quality. He only eats the apples grown on the Downing Farm, and doesn't get sick of them, despite the fact that he will usually eat 20 a day, and nothing else.

"It doesn't matter which they are, whatever variety we're picking, I'll just eat them all day long," said Scott. "It just keeps me going. But as soon we're done and I sell the last apple for the season, I won't eat another one until ours are ready again."

Read part two in the "Seed to Table" series here.