Gift Fruit Baskets - Hillside Orchard


   

About the Farm

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The Original Bowman Family Farm

The original farm on State Rt. 303, just east of W. 130th St. in Hinckley, Ohio, consisted of 108 acres that were purchased by Arthur W. Bowman in March, 1914. There was a farmhouse, a large bank-barn, a chicken coop and several outbuildings, including one which served as an airplane hanger. Arthur and his wife Nettie raised four sons, Ralph, Earl, Howard and Ward. At Arthur's death in 1948, the farm was divided. 94 acres were bought by Howard; he carried on general farming. In 1964, that property was sold to the Lutheran Cemetery Association of Cleveland. Ward purchased the remaining 14-acre parcel in 1948 and named it Hillside Orchard. Ward and wife June built a new house there for their family of three sons, Allen, Wayne and Thomas.

The original orchard planting on the old farm was started in 1932. It consisted of 180 standard-size apple trees, 180 peach trees, 10 plum trees and 40 pear trees. Some of these trees are still producing today!

Humble Beginnings

From 1948 to 1960 Ward expanded the peach orchard and added more apple trees until there were fruit trees all the way south to Rt. 303! In 1977, new plantings of dwarf apple trees and 175 peach trees were made, but very few of the peach trees survived the harsh winter that followed. Additional small apple trees have been added as the old 20 ft. trees were eliminated. The orchard now encompasses 12 acres with 23 varieties of delicious apples, including Ohio's own "Melrose" apple, of course!

Fresh fruit and produce have been sold at Hillside Orchard since 1948, when Rt. 303 was only a narrow country road. Ward Bowman set a long board on top of two cement blocks, arranged his apples and instructed his three little boys to watch for customers. That was the humble beginning of Hillside Orchard.

In 1975 Ward and June's oldest son, Allen, and his wife Judy closed their tire stores and began to help full time on the family farm. The "board and blocks" front yard display had long since been replaced by a small roadside stand. It evolved to a 16x8 ft. structure. Customers stood outside in all kinds of weather, making their selections from the fresh fruits and vegetables displayed on the front shelves. (Those were the days of large volume purchases, too, as housewives canned and froze sweet corn, peaches, applesauce, beans, pickles, etc., to feed their families until the next "fresh season.")

A New Face with the Same Focus

As more people moved into the area, the business grew and the need for a larger building was evident. The present pole-barn market was erected in 1982, opening that August. Del Donohue of Channel 3's "Del's Folks" made Hillside Orchard a destination for family outings and gave us a bit of TV coverage!

Our new farm market building allowed for more display area plus a 16x20 ft. walk-in cooler to keep the just-picked produce as fresh as possible. An automatic donut machine supplied cake donuts to complement Hillside's jugs of sweet apple cider. Judy obtained licensing from the State of Ohio for her home kitchen and began to supply the market with homemade baked goods. Jim McIntyre, her father, donated all the old tools that add interest to our walls. Local crafters brought in their wares. Much change was happening!

Although the larger structure made Hillside Orchard look different to the passersby, the orchard, berry patches and fields remained the focus of the family's work. During the 1970's, 80's and early 90's, lush strawberry beds invited young and old alike to fill quart baskets in the warm summer sun. Presently, those who enjoy Pick-Your-Own head for the blueberry patch from mid-July through August. In 1999, Pick-Your-Own was allowed for certain varieties of apples in the Fall, a practice which will continue while there is public interest in family fun of this sort!

More Than Meets the Eye

For many years, Hillside has offered field trips to public and parochial school children, those who are home-schooled, and children from area day care centers and nursery schools. Every year about 1400 come to learn first-hand about how food is grown as they take hayrides through the orchard, past berry patches and pumpkin patches and melon patches, corn fields and rows of tomatoes. Much is learned and wonderful memories are made here!

The farm market carries many locally made products such as Boswell's Beanery and Blends, a well-known Hinckley company. Whole-grain mixes by Fowler's Mill in Chardon are also on our shelves, as are Mrs. Miller's jams and noodles from Fredericksburg.

Hillside honors WIC coupons for fresh produce during the growing season. This Medina County program is a big help to young mothers and their families.

We are expanding our Bulk Foods area to further help customers stretch their food dollars. An in-store baking kitchen adds the aroma of homemade fresh pies, breads, cakes, cookies and more. After apple harvest in October, we hustle to fill the waiting list of orders for cut and split firewood. Ohio-grown Christmas trees are sold after Thanksgiving. And beautiful fruit and gift baskets are constructed with much TLC.

Winter brings a slower pace until the snow melts. Much time is spent pruning the fruit trees and berry bushes. Spring-time is welcomed to Hillside with lush hanging baskets, baskets of primroses and pansies, flats of creeping phlox and an array of perennials and bedding plants.

Cheerful smiles, warm greetings and helpful service, a listening ear (even a hug or prayer) go right along with the good quality, freshness and "your money's worth"! We love our customers and it shows!

 

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