Winchester venture hopes a half-apple a day gets Virginia school systems to pay


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Virginia school kids may start leaving a package of apple slices instead of a shiny Red Delicious for the teacher.

Fruit Hill Slices LLC, a joint venture of Winchester orchardists Philip Glaize and Katherine Whitesell, is marketing the 3-ounce packages -- about half an apple -- to Virginia schools. Grab Apples, as the product is called, start as Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith apples, then travel to New York for slicing, preserving in vitamin C and packaging before heading to refrigerators in Virginia.

Whitesell said school buyers in Norfolk, Chesapeake and other locales have expressed interest, but none has signed on.

Fruit Hill Slices tested the product in Frederick County schools. Whitesell said 90 percent of the kids devoured the apples.

Virginia is the sixth-largest apple-producing state, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. Most Virginia apples are processed into sauce or juice.

Virginia orchards face stiff competition from Chinese imports, out-of-state competitors and increasing pressure to develop land for other uses.

The state's schools traditionally buy Washington state apples because they are cheaper. Fruit Hill Slices is trying to bring Virginia apples to Virginia schools with a product that appeals to kids, Whitesell said. If the product takes off, she wants to start slicing and packaging the apples near her orchard in Winchester.

"Sliced apples are something kids can chew," she said. "The packaging is for kids, and they like it; it's vibrant."

Contact staff writer Aaron Kremer at or (804) 649-6495.