Earl G. Weber Sr., built his farm into largest cider retailer in state

April 19, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare and Fred Rasmussen | Mary Gail Hare and Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writers

Earl G. Weber Sr., who turned a roadside market into the largest cider retail operation in Maryland, died Friday of cancer at Manor Care Nursing Home in Towson. He was 74.

He had been involved with the farm on Proctor Lane in Baltimore County since his early childhood.

After the death in 1932 of his father, Jacob Frederick Weber, he quit school at the age of 13 to help his mother run the farm, which the family has owned since 1907.

In 1947, Mr. Weber installed production equipment on the farm and founded Weber's Cider Mill Farm, which today is operated by a third generation of the family.

In 1979, he recalled the days of making cider with a hand-operated press in an "I Remember" article in the Sun Magazine.

"Squeezed in a tight cylindrical cage of hardwood slats under pressure applied by a hand operated lever, two bushels of pomace yielded about seven to eight gallons of cider. In the Depression years, cider sold for 30 cents a gallon," he wrote.

"In 1947 we installed our own mass production equipment, in which we can apply 50 tons of pressure in a hydraulic press, 20-bushel capacity, to obtain 75 to 80 gallons of cider in one pressing.

Mr. Weber was proud that he continued his father's policy of not selling pomace, a juicy apple pulp, to hunters, who would use it to attract deer.

"I have been told the smell of it will attract a deer from a mile off, if the wind is right. My father would never sell it for luring a deer to his death. Neither will I, and now I notice my son is turning the hunters away, too," he said in the Sun Magazine article.

Mr. Weber lived on the family farm until 1971, when he purchased the nearly 400-acre Mount Pleasant Orchard Farm on Chapel Road near Havre de Grace, where he continued to supply apples for Cider Mill Farm and ran a pick-your-own and farmer's market there until his death.

In 1973, he introduced a novel tree rental program in which 500 of his 5,000 apple trees were set aside for renters in a fenced-off area. Each tree was numbered, and each renter paid a fee of $30 per tree. The trees were maintained by Mr. Weber.

"All the people have to do is come up and pick the apples when they're ripe," he told The Sun in 1973.

"I got the idea to rent trees after I read that renting fruit trees is pretty common in Europe. I didn't advertise it, but word got around and, my gosh, we got calls from people as far away as Washington," he said.

Jo-Ann Weber, a daughter-in-law, said, "It lasted for a couple of years, but people couldn't use all of the apples -- each tree yielded 10 to 20 bushels of apples. It was an innovative idea, but it never really took."

Andrew H. Lohr Jr., who operates Lohr's Orchards in Churchville, recalled Mr. Weber as a helpful competitor.

"When I got started in the business, he said there was room for all of us to make a living, and he didn't begrudge anyone trying as long as they had a quality product," Mr. Lohr said.

Mr. Weber was a member of the Maryland Direct Farm Market Association, the Maryland Horticulture Association, the Kiwanis Club of Parkville and the Farm Bureau.

His first wife, the former Dorothy Weidner of Baltimore, whom he married in 1940, died in 1981.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Calvary Lutheran Church, 2625 E. Northern Parkway.

Survivors include his wife, the former Josephine Toula of Cub Hill, whom he married in 1987; two sons, Earl G. Weber Jr. of Baltimore and Stephen L. Weber of Cub Hill; two daughters, Olivia C. Fox of Cub Hill and Sharon L. Fleming of Flohrville; a sister, Madie Thate of Parkville; three stepdaughters, Katherine T. Davis of Mount Washington, Josephine T. Carlson of Virginia Beach, Va., and Victoria T. Ramina of Cub Hill; 10 grandchildren, a great-grandchild; and five step-grandchildren.

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