A third-generation orchard looks to the future
The Frecon family has had a storefront in Boyertown since 1952. Richard Frecon and his family settled in the area in 1944 and began planting fruit—apples, peaches and nectarines. After outgrowing their roadside farmstand, they converted an old restaurant into a permanent retail location where they could sell their goods. Richard’s son Henry and his wife Torrie took over in 1969, eventually expanding the retail operation to include produce from local farms and specialty items from regional natural foods producers alongside their fruit and fresh apple cider. Through PASA, they have also teamed up with local dairies doing artisanal cheese and glass-jarred milk, and livestock farmers raising hormone-free, grass-fed meat. They also carry free-range turkeys during the holidays.
Now their sons, along with a third business partner, are planning to take over. Their daughter also works in the store. “To keep it open, we’re going to need to have interested young people,” explains Torrie. “And in our family, it’s our children that have expressed a desire and invested the capital to keep this land a farm.”
Just a few minutes up the road from the retail store are the orchards. Rows of trees stretch up a tremendous hill. From the top, you can see the neighboring farms and the expanse of the valley. There is something spectacular about an orchard in winter—rows of gnarled trees mustering their energies for a spring explosion. They are a sea of promise. In the storerooms, the fall’s harvest lies nestled in huge wood crates bearing the “Frecon” stamp. So many apples! Gala, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp—the list goes on.
Growing apples sustainably is an intensive process. It takes five years for a tree to bear fruit, and then, after the 15-25 year lifespan, the trees are removed, and the soil sown with grass to rid it of impurities and parasites. After a fallow year, new trees are planted, on a rotating basis. It is important not to plant the same fruit twice in the same block. “Two years back, my husband came in, so excited,” recalls Frecon, “He said, ‘I can now honestly say that every tree on this property has been planted by me.’”
In the fall, Frecon Farms offers apple picking, grows pumpkins and hosts a Bluegrass Picking Festival featuring food vendors and local craftspeople. It’s all about showcasing where food comes from, telling the story of a family farm and getting consumers to make that extra effort. “You’re definitely gonna pay more for a gallon of Pennsylvania pressed apples that were raised in a good, systemic orchard that the family kept an eye on than you will for Chinese concentrate,” says Frecon. “But who knows how it was handled, and how it was grown? And that matters to people.”