If you ask farmers Andy and Gary Orbaker, they have the perfect piece of land to grow the sweetest fruit in New York state. Just off the shores of Lake Ontario, Orbaker’s Fruit Farm has mild winters, temperate springs that aren’t prone to frost, and cool summers. These cool nights and warm days help develop starches into sugars or, if you rather, good-for-you fruit into sublime treats.
Founded in 1889, and an official New York State Century Farm, Orbaker’s hasn’t always been in the fruit business. “When my great grandfather Adrian bought the original 37 acres it was a small general farm. They had a few apples and cherries, wheat, corn, pigs, chickens, and cows. My great grandfather’s first commercial crops were tomatoes for canning, and cabbages,” explains farmer Andy Orbaker. A few generations later things took a turn. “My father, Roland, was the fruit guy. He loved fruit trees.” So, the third and fourth generations of Orbakers put their backs into planting fruit trees. Together with crops of apples, peaches and sweet cherries, the farm soon became one the largest tart cherry producers in the state. Over the years, the family also grew the farm in size from 37 to 214 acres.
The Orbakers are keenly aware of growing the best, safest possible product for their customers. “We spray [pesticides] as little as possible. We want to have a sustainable orchard where the good bugs thrive and the bad bugs die. We want to be sure that our kids, our neighbor’s kids, and our customer’s kids are healthy when it is all said and done.”
Today, brothers Andy and Gary run the farm. Gary manages all aspects of growing, pruning and harvesting while Andy takes care of the labor, marketing, sales, processing, packaging and storage aspects of the farm. According to this team, working and living on the farm are worth every minute of hard work. “You need a good strong work ethic to stay in farming,” says Andy. “It’s not about having every little thing. It’s about watching something grow from a baby and developing into a nifty product. Besides, I’ve never seen a dull day on this farm!”
Orbakers Fruit Farm is certified by the IPM Institute to meet the rigorous standards of Red Tomato’s Eco Apple Program.