Story by Sara Paul
Anyone looking to shop fresh and local for holiday produce and gifts, and certainly for their own kitchen table staples, can find all things homegrown and local at Warwick’s 100-acre, 100-year-old farm, Ochs Orchard.
Simply turn off of Route 94, and drive a quick three-quarter mile to the family owned and operated establishment, located at 4 Ochs Ln., to find fresh vegetables, complimentary hot cider, and just plain old-fashioned farm goodness.
With over 30 varieties of apples and an array of local syrups, honeys, vinegars, and even handmade items, there is something for everyone at Ochs.
“We are here all winter long, and our road is always plowed and open,” said Janice Williams, who co-owns and runs the business with her brother, Alan Ochs.
The many goodies available at the picturesque property, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., include a variety of jams and jellies, ketchups, mustards, hot sauces, dressings, and a variety of fresh made nut butters.
Ochs was included in USA Today’s 10 Best 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Apple Orchards in the US.
Keeping it in the Family
While good help is indeed hard to find, Ochs Orchard is, in true, authentic generational business style, happy to welcome Janice’s daughter, Amy Williams, as a full-time staff member.
Besides spending much of her life on the farm, Amy’s knowledge and expertise has been refined with a formal agricultural education from SUNY Cobleskill. The 21-year-old college grad recently received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Agricultural Business.
Amy is committed to continuing the family business in a progressive and responsible manner, and she is very serious about the region’s commitment to supporting local farms and staying on the cutting edge of farming trends.
“People buy from Ochs because they know where the products are coming from, and they’re buying from a family business. Every basket of apples, for example helps the business, helps the family, and helps the town,” notes Amy, adding that, “Each individual purchase makes a difference, which is not the case when you’re buying from big companies.”
Janice’s older daughter, Jessie, 23, is an equally integral part of Ochs, processing all bookkeeping and also managing the “Pick Your Own” area of the orchards. Jessie also crochets potholders and washcloths that are sold alongside local soaps from Sallye Ander, located in Beacon, NY.
Ochs Past & Present
While Ochs Orchard moves forward with young family members and the ability to keep current and interesting items in stock, the family holds dear its rich and sometimes difficult past.
The vast land was owned by Charles Walling in the 1920s. Walling sold it to his employees Peter Ochs and Chris Scheuermann in the 1930s, and it was known as “Ochs and Scheuermann” through the 1960s.
In 1969, Peter Ochs became sole owner, and in 1973 he passed it on to his son Les and Les’s wife, Susan. When Les passed away in 1994 at age 52, the business was left to his son Alan, who had been running the day-to-day operations since then with his mother. Janice jumped in to help soon after her mother’s passing in 2017, and she has never looked back on leaving her desk job.
“I enjoy the constant changing of the seasons and the harvests, and I love always the friendly faces. We have so many repeat customers who visit us to see what is coming out each week, and it’s a lot of fun to see the generations, too. We see people who came as kids and now bring their own kids,” Janice commented.
Challenges & Changes
With Alan at the helm, there have been such changes and additions as creating an ice cream shop, making their own apple cider donuts, paving the windy road, and selling Christmas trees. From summer to fall, Ochs offers pick-your-own items from strawberries to cherries, blueberries to raspberries, vegetables to potatoes, and apples to pumpkins. Ochs is always adding more to provide a wider variety to their customers.
“I like that things are always changing. One harvest ends, and another begins, so I never get bored,” Alan said.
Janice echoed the comments, and also talked about the sincere comfort and even excitement when new faces come through their welcoming store door.
“There are always new people coming in, always someone who hasn’t been here before, always new people in town, and I really like that there are people willing to take the drive up that hill to see what’s up here,” she said.
Like many businesses, there are challenges that the dedicated owners face, such as inconsistent staffing and production cost increases. “It’s hard to find responsible, reliable people who are willing to work for seasonal employment.” said Alan, adding that it’s difficult to employ a large retail staff year round, as the business is in full swing from June through November.
With more than 40 acres of orchards, berries, and vegetables, Ochs is part of a collaborative network of local folks who work together to support each other. For example, businesses such as Noble Pies, Tuscan Café, Iron Forge, and Eddie’s Roadhouse, regularly purchase fruits from Ochs Orchard.
For more information about Ochs Orchard, visit their website at www.ochsorchard.net or follow them on Facebook for the most up to date information.