“New York City has the Big Apple, but Boston has the Red Apple”
Welcome to our new weekly blog series -“Meet the Vendor” – where you’ll learn more about the special people you meet at the Market who grow, catch, and produce your food. Find out why they love what they do, where it all started, and what they do in their free time (hint: its usually involves food!).
Tell us a little bit about your business.
Al: Our farm is located in Phillipston, MA. What’s neat about our location is that it’s the highest altitude commercial orchard in New England. Our farmhouse and our barn date back to the 1700s, but Red Apple Farm was started in 1912. We are a fourth generation farm – my family took over the farm in 1929. My grandfather diversified the orchard, so we have over 50 varieties of apples right now. My dad diversified the crops and the business, adding summer fruits and pumpkins. We have expanded and now operate in all seasons, and we even do weddings and events.
What is your favorite item you sell?
Nancy: Gingergold apple (when you slice them up they don’t turn brown!) and our Mexican Dark Chocolate fudge.
Al: Macoun apple and our later pressings of our cider.
What has been your biggest career accomplishment or proudest moment?
Nancy: How much we’ve grown this business together. Being at the BPM and being at Wachusett Mountain in addition to having our farm – that’s just huge. I never dreamed when we took over the family farm that we would be doing all of this.
Al: I would go along with that and add that my goal when we came back to the farm was to keep it going for the next generation. So I think my proudest part is bringing a sustainable, viable, and relevant business that can be there for our family.
Why were you interested in joining the market?
Al: I had gone to grad school back in the 90s at Cornell studying Agriculture Economics and my thesis was titled “The Family Farm and Direct Marketing: Adapting to an Urbanizing Environment.” One of the goals was to someday bring the farm to the city. Even back in the 90s, the idea of doing a cooperative effort down here was something I was very interested in. So we’ve always been connected to the idea of the BPM, hoping this would come to fruition. And when the opportunity came, we had a team meeting and everyone was 100% supportive. Even our kids were! Most of our kids were (chuckles).
How has being a part of the market changed your business?
Al: First and foremost it has allowed us to be a year-round business that’s a lot more sustainable in cash flow alone. Farms are very seasonal, and being at the BPM has taken some of the seasonal risks and fluctuations out of the equation. We really view this area of Boston as a world stage – we have to be a little better at our game and it has made us do a better job. Hey, that was Senator Markey over there. “Hi Senator!” (Senator buying some apples).
What do you like to do outside of the market?
Nancy: We don’t have much downtime but because we’re a family business, a lot of what we do, we do together. We’ll take mini power vacations where we shut off our phones and go to the movies.
Al: This morning I worked from 2am and my day doesn’t end until 7 at night. But we’re all together as a family. Which is cool. It’s a family farm, and there isn’t much of a divide. It’s a way of life.
Nancy: And we work with really great people – we call them our “farmily.”
What’s your favorite song?
Anything by The Eagles.