Located near the shores of Lake Ontario in beautiful Waterport, NY, Orchard Dale Fruit Co., LLC produces a variety of fruits, including some of the most popular apple varieties. Bobby Brown is a part of the eighth generation on this family-run farm.
How did you/your family get started in the apple industry?
My family started its farm nearly 212 years ago on the same land we use today. Back then it was used for general farming for sustainability, but became larger and larger over the years. For the last five generations, we’ve focused on growing and harvesting a variety of fresh fruits that our customers really love.
Today, my father, uncle and I, along with support from my wife Beth, are the eighth generation to farm on this land. We have approximately 300 acres that are dedicated mainly to apples and berries. In the last 30 years, we’ve increased production and adopted new growing techniques that allowed us to transition from being a pick-your-own orchard to a wholesale fruit supplier. While we’ve always had a hand in the wholesale side of farming, we’re now 100 percent focused on bringing fresh fruits to local grocers and farmers markets.
What do you think most people don’t know about apples?
Most people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into bringing their favorite apples to market. The apples go through a very long growing process from the seed bed to the packing house, so there’s always work to be done year-round. At Orchard Dale Fruit Company, we also handle our own marketing and sales, which keeps us very busy. Whether we’re planting, pruning or harvesting the apples, there’s something going on at the orchard every season.
We have so much diversity in the produce that we grow, which is something not every orchard has. In addition to apples and berries, we grow peaches, cherries, pears and plums. Most growers don’t take this approach because it can be really challenging to manage so many fruits, especially given western New York climate. With our new growing techniques, we’ve been able to bring the quality of our fruits up to West Coast standards.
Where do you see the apple industry going in the coming years?
In the farming industry, especially in the fruit sector, competition continues to increase, which demands that we find ways to set ourselves apart in the market. Our orchard has already begun doing that by growing more varieties of apples and other types of fruits. In the next few years, we envision that branding of specific varieties, not only on the apple itself but on pre-packed sliced apples, will be more important than ever.
Do you have a favorite variety? Why/why not?
Surprisingly, I don’t really have a favorite variety. I really enjoy snacking on McIntosh apples, but then again, you can’t beat Honeycrisp! Empire apples are also really popular in this region – it’s hard to choose just one. I guess if I had to pick, the one variety I love all year is Fuji.
What’s your favorite apple recipe (or simple way to eat apples)?
I haven’t met an apple crisp I didn’t like. Then again, doesn’t everyone love apple crisp?