Beechwood Orchard brings fresh fruit to Philly’s farmers’ markets
by Will Dean
A fifth-generation family operation, Beechwood Orchards in Biglerville, PA specializes in heirloom and unusual varieties of fruits—particularly apples—and sells them at many farmers’ markets in the city and beyond. At their stand, you can get esoteric apples—like Baldwin, September Wonder Fuji, Wolf River and Zestar—as well as more traditional ones, like Red Delicious and Granny Smith. There are so many varieties that it can be hard to know what you want, but you might be surrounded by experts.
“If there’s another customer around and someone asks about the Honey Crisps or something, I don’t need to open my mouth,” says David Garretson, who runs the orchard with his wife Tammy and their children and grandchildren. “My customers will tell them all about it.”
According to Garretson, Honey Crisps, known for their two-tone (red and gold) colors and mixture of sweet and tart, have been the most popular apple this season; but he has other favorites. “I like them, but there’s a lot of other good types, like Macoun, that I like a lot, too.”
Customers might feel more at home with Beechwood because the orchard, which is over 100 years old, is based around family. Garretson’s father rode a tractor until he was 86. When his son and daughter came back to work at the orchard—Shawn returned in 2005 and Melissa in 2008—they decided to expand their business into more markets and diversify what they grew. Beechwood has always grown all kinds of tree fruits—including 20 varieties of plums—but Melissa expanded their offerings into heirloom tomatoes and unusual strains of garlic, onions and asparagus. Melissa’s young daughters Isabelle and Cammy also help out, especially with eating the fresh fruit.
The push to diversify their offerings was part of a successful plan to sell more at farmers’ markets. Beechwood has been at Philly farmers’ markets for four years, and they’ve become well-known for their delectable fruit. Beechwood uses integrated pest management instead of pesticides, relying on attracting an array of pest-eating insects and animals to keep their plants healthy and chemical-free.
That commitment to sustainability and family has borne exceptional fruit and, Garretson hopes, relationships, too. “I think something of my customers,” he says, “and I hope they think something of me.”
Sundays at Headhouse Square, Tuesdays at Passyunk, Wednesday at UPenn and Tuesdays
& Saturdays at Rittenhouse Square. beechwoodorchards.com