Local businesses seem to continue to close their doors for various reasons in this area, it’s nice to know that one of the local businesses is celebrating it’s 60th year and as a family, Fuhrmann’s Orchard plan to carry on the business well into the future. On Saturday, Paul and Leanne Fuhrmann, owners of Fuhrmann’s Orchard, celebrated this anniversary during their Apple Fest.
Paul’s parents, Pete and Susan opened for business in 1958. Pete was a professional baseball pitcher and his shoulder went out, when he and Susan were on their way to Spring training, after they were married. Back then, that pretty much ended his career, so they came back to the farm. At that time, it was just a Summer farm that his parents had because it was free. It had a few apple trees and some land. Pete and Suzy basically built the orchard from nothing and there have been a lot of changes over the past 60 years. Initially, it started out as greenhouses.
Pete had gone to Penn State University, to study Business, he still had a part time job and Suzy was a nurse at the old Mercy Hospital. In the 1980’s, the farm had grown enough with Paul, and his brother Pete, that their dad purchased property in Lucasville for the apples, they wanted it for primarily a wholesale orchard, although they did start retail in local stores. Unfortunately, with the passing of Pete, Paul’s father, who died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 1990, that left Paul, Leanne, and Suzy. They continued to work and run the orchard. With the changing landscape of the retail grocery industry, with some local grocery stores being gone, and with other stores only buying through wholesale, they decided to do more of their own thing. They kind of transformed into mostly 60 to 70% retail. Paul’s mother, Suzy, continued to work at the orchard, until the day she too, passed away expectantly in 2007 at the age of 70.
“We do three farmer’s markets a week, from the beginning of June until the end of September and our Portsmouth Market is from May until the end of October. With our five children, we started doing the Farmer’s Market, I retired from the OSU South Center in Piketon, I was the first person to begin working in my position there as a horticulture research assistant, where I did research on small fruits and vegetables. After I had the triplet’s in 1999, I have worked primarily at the farm and do substitute teaching in the winter months. We have two full time employees and then part-time workers, we try to hire college students and work with their schedules. That has been helpful, while our own children are in college or working elsewhere,” said Leanne.
Leanne continued, “We remodeled last year, we tried to make things more retail friendly here at the farm. Facebook is for us, a marketing tool, Facebook is how people get in contact with us, during the times we are not open. We start picking asparagus the last of April and we don’t stop picking apples until the first week in November.” She said that maybe close to one half of their customers come from out of town. “Retail for us here at the farm, is buying local, buying fresh, and supporting local agriculture.” She wanted to add that buying local from a grocery store, could be as far away as 1,000 miles. “Fresh here at the farm is so very different than that.” Fuhrmann’s grow over 35 different types and varieties of apples to increase consumption of fresh fruits and of course, apples are their biggest product, they have over 60 acres of apples, mostly grown at their Lucasville location. They plant their sweet corn five times a year.
The Fuhrmann’s have five children with the youngest three, being triplets(Jeremy, Andrew, & Melanie). Leanne said, “Jeremy is at Purdue studying agriculture with a focus on horticulture, he does intend on coming back to the farm to continue in the family business, he is also in the National Guard. He is trying to find some new ways to do things and new things he wants to try. Andrew, is at Middle Tennessee State University and is a fermentation Science major, with plans to come back here to start our own cider, now, it is pressed for us, and then he wants to have in the future a hard cider facility in Scioto County with local apples. Melanie is at Ohio State and she is in Ag Communications and Leadership, she has her roots in Agriculture too, and will probably be back at the farm at some point. She would like to be an Extension Educator or something with youth leadership. Abby is a math teacher in Circleville, but she helps and does all the marketing on Facebook, plus helps with our Farmer’s Market. Lora Lee, the oldest, is in California at UC Berkley as an athletic trainer for their football and softball team.
Leanne and Paul met at Purdue, and they both graduated from there. Leanne has a degree in Horticulture, Business and Marketing and Paul was an Ag Economic major. She grew up in agriculture in Indiana, just not apples, but vegetables. Paul said Leanne as a young girl, sold vegetables in front of her house, which was a four lane highway. Two of her brothers do farmer’s market in Indiana and her sister raises rabbits there as well.
When Paul was asked how he felt, that most of his children want to come back to the business or at least be involved with the business, he said, “It makes me happy that they want to continue, that’s the big thing with all businesses. It’s continuation, like some of the local businesses I know, that have to close down because there is no one to carry it on. It’s not a glorious job, it’s a lot of work. Many nights we go to bed past midnight. It’s tiring work. The kids have been working at it, since they were little. The only thing is, that the costs of doing business is so much more than it use to be, that’s the downfall. It used to be that people could be comfortable, not rich but comfortable.”
Leanne said they do school tours at the orchard as well, “We talk to them about different things. For us, it’s an educational opportunity, and that’s one of the reasons we started doing our Apple Fest, it’s a way to say thank you to our customers and to educate them, because so many people are three generations removed from agricultural and farming.”
Finally, when asked when the time came and their kids come back to work the business, will Paul and Leanne retire, and they both said they are not going to retire. “I don’t mind working, I prefer to be out in the fields more. We’ll never retire, farmers never retire,” Paul said. Leanne added, “I enjoy providing good fresh local foods to the community.”
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740) 353-3101 ext. 1928