Editorial: 100 Years in the Community

The Recorder, October 30, 2015 

A long-standing local business is more than just a store or a place that provides some kind of service.

It’s a valued member of the community.

Sure, a business doesn’t stay around through oh-so-many years without providing good customer service, quality products and affordable prices. But there’s more to this relationship. These long-standing businesses reach out to the community as well, taking part in civic events and celebrations or by donating goods or services for a worthy cause.

When such a business reaches a milestone, like 100 years, it’s worth taking notice and celebrating a little bit.

Clarkdale Fruit Farms on Upper Road in Deerfield has earned a reputation for its apples and cider, its peaches, plums, pears, cherries and grapes — a reputation that stretches far beyond Franklin County. Stop there on a weekend when the apples are ripe for picking, and you’ll see plenty license plates representing a number of neighboring states. Even people from elsewhere in the Bay State, like eastern Massachusetts, will make it a point to stop by and pick up some fruit to take home.
The century worth of farming, orchards and being in the apple business represents four generations of the Clark family, beginning with Webster Kimball Clark, a doctor by trade who had purchased the land from one of his patients with the idea of moving from Bernardston and building his home there. The land includes 10 acres of what had been dairy farm, property that Dr. Clark decided would be the place to plant apple, pear and cherry trees. As it turns out, Webster Kimball Clark wasn’t just planting fruit trees for his own use. He had other ideas in mind.

“Throughout his life, he had always had an entrepreneurial spirit and, being a doctor, he had some income to hire some people and try different things,” said his grandson, Tom Clark, in a recent Recorder story. Along with buying neighboring acreage for more orchard space, Dr. Clark “would pack the apples up and ship them to New York, where they weren’t as easy to get. It’s crazy to realize that in the ’30s and ’40s, they’d drive a truck that held probably no more than 75 bushels of apples to the city without interstates.”

We dare say that each generation of Clarks have left their mark on the business and the community. It was Frederick Griswold Clark who took over running the farm after his father’s death in the late 1940s. He installed Clarkdale’s first cider mill in 1959. It was Tom Clark who joined his father to help run the business. Tom has seen his son, Ben, come aboard in 2006, to be part of the continuum of this family business, including helping the farm create a website and offer customers at the farm stand the choice to use credit cards for purchases.

This is all points to a business that can adapt and grow with its market. But we suspect what has allowed the Clarkdale Fruit Farms to make it to 100 years and overcome the challenges of weather, pests, changes in economics, tastes, competition and other pressures has been the connection it and the family running it has with the Franklin County community. That kind of relationship is timeless.