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Ohio’s Quarry Hill Orchards

September 25, 2019

Originally established in 1931, Quarry Hill Orchards has stood the test of time. A third-generation family farm, it is named after the three old sandstone quarries on the farm's rolling land in Berlin Heights, OH. Today, it is run by the Gammie family with the help of their two golden retrievers.

Brooke and Ben joined Ben’s parents, Bill and Jacque, on the farm six years ago, after both leaving their corporate careers as civil engineers in the land development consulting business in Austin, TX. Why the drastic career change? As Brooke recalls, “When [Ben and I] were dating it was very clear that choosing to partner with Ben for life meant also choosing the farm. That was just a package deal with him. I knew from early on that I would call Quarry Hill Orchards home one day. And here we are!” Working on the farm now allows the Gammie’s to spend quality time together, something that wasn’t the case in their previous careers. “Working together as a family is how we spend time together,” says Brooke. “The opportunity we get to work together, play together and be together on the farm brings us all together.” As an added bonus, Brooke is happy to know their kids will grow up the way Ben grew up. “One of the reasons I married Ben was the way he was raised. The moral compass, the work ethic and the personality that you have when you grow up on a farm – people just aren’t raised that way anymore, and I wanted my children to have those same qualities.”

The farm work ethic certainly shows the moment you step onto the Quarry Hill Orchard grounds. From basic commodity apples, to Old English cider apples, to lesser known boutique dessert apples, such as Zestar, Ambrosia, Pink Pearl, Pixie Crunch, Winesap, Spy Gold and GoldRush, Quarry Hill gives patrons a broad view into what local apples look like, and how flavorful and different tasting they can be. “It’s really fun to grow different varieties. They ripen at different times throughout the season, so we constantly have new flavor profiles, colors, smells and tastes coming into the barn, and having that really diverse crop gives us a lot of personality,” Brooke explains. “We love growing unique, fun, interesting, non-commodity apples, that’s kind of where our niche in the market is.” An especially unique new apple variety on the farm is EverCrisp. Loved for its sweet, juicy and powerful crunch, these apples harvest late in the season and store extremely well. However, Brooke’s favorite is the Crimson Crisp. She says it’s the perfect “storybook, Red Riding Hood red” and is harvested at the peak of the season. The taste is “crisp, juicy and sweet – like Honeycrisp, but with a hint of tartness.”

It’s important to note that once a new variety is chosen, it takes about five years to get the first harvest. Because of the long-term commitment, the Gammies make it a priority to stay active within their industry, attending conferences, trainings, and events of the many associations they are involved with. This helps them evaluate the market both domestically and internationally. In fact, just last year they attended the International Fruit Tree Association Conference in New Zealand. The conference provided them with exposure to robotics and new techniques to make farming more efficient. Improvements they have made since include switching over to a high-density planting method to grow more apples using less land, and installing a weather station to aid with their Integrated Pest Management Program.

The Gammies are also heavily involved with their community, especially local schools. Brooke is a member of the leadership council of Feed our Future, a Cuyahoga County Board of Health initiative that provides communities with resources they need to make local produce more accessible to children. You can also find Quarry Hill Orchard apples in Columbus City Schools thanks to their involvement with the Fruit Growers Marketing Association and a grant that provided the school district with an apple slicing machine. Other organizations they are involved with include the U.S. Apple Association, the Erie Metroparks, Ohio Apples, Ohio Proud and the Ohio Farm Bureau.

However, Quarry Hill Orchards provides the community with more than just hand fruit. Their orchard is a place families can come to spend time with each other and create meaningful experiences. Their annual Apple Peak Harvest Gathering is coming up on Oct. 19th, and will feature apple picking, wagon rides, live music, food trucks, local wine, storytelling, boutique shopping with local makers, and more. Also in October, they will host an Antique Tractor Show (Oct. 12th & 13th) and a gourmet Apple Dinner with wine pairings prepared by Spice Catering Co. (Oct. 4th). Further, their Orchard Market is open 7 days a week during the harvest season. It sounds like no matter your age, you’ll find something you love at Quarry Hill. We certainly recommend you check it out for yourself! For more information visit their Events Page

 

Written by Marianna Marchenko