Local Hero Profile: Roundhill Orchards
By Aja Lippincott, Program Associate
Published in CISA’s July 2016 E-Newsletter – Sign Up Here!
On a beautiful piece of land just off of Route 10 in Southampton you will find the oh, so charming Roundhill Orchards. The nearly 20 acres of planted land accommodates a diverse array of berries and stone fruits. As I got out of my car on a recent visit, a friendly dog and two young children wearing crowns made of weeds greeted me and led me through the orchard to meet Andrew Carl, a third generation farmer, who was busy working in the field under the oppressive summer sun .
Our conversation began with a brief history of the farm. I learned that Andrew’s grandfather farmed in both Southampton and Holyoke. In the 80s, Andrew’s mother, Kate, decided to plant more fruit trees and make that the focus of their “no spray” operation that currently functions solely in Southampton.
At Roundhill Orchards, diversity is key. They grow peaches, plums, pears, apricots, pluots, summer and fall raspberries, black raspberries, and strawberries. They also grow 15 to 20 varieties of apples including some heirlooms. Andrew has been working on grafting in new varieties and they have recently planted a small bed of vegetables. It’s a lot to manage, but Andrew doesn’t ever see himself at an office job. Being outside all the time is just how he likes it.
Bee boxes line the front walkway of the Carl home. They are collecting honey both on their property and at Bashista Orchards, also in Southampton, which is where they will be bringing their apples to be pressed into cider in the coming months. A few pens sit nestled under the shade of some nearby trees that separately house rabbits and tiny quails. These days the animals serve mostly as pets to Andrew’s niece and nephew, Thomas and Elizabeth. The kids have named the rabbits and proudly hold them up to be admired.
“There’s no redundancy. Every day is a new challenge,” remarks Andrew in sharing what he loves best about farming. This season has been tough on some of the crops, but fortunately Andrew recognizes that weather is just one factor that determines the success of farming. He sees how more people are getting interested in local food and seeking it out, thus strengthening the local food movement as a whole. “People have more of an urge to know what’s in their food; especially younger people.” When asked about market competition as another potential challenge Andrew shrugged and stated, “Competition just ensures that one farm doesn’t set the price for everyone.”
Thinking towards the future, Andrew would love to build a large roadside farm stand. But for now the goal is to just make sure the family can continue to comfortably rely on farming for their livelihood. Experimenting with new crops is one way they plan to realize that goal – the recent planting of hardy kiwis will take four tofive 5 years to produce fruit, but the farm will have grapes for the first time this year and may start to see persimmons next year.
You can call ahead this summer and fall if your family or school group is interested in Pick-Your-Own berries at the orchard. Or find their fruit at the farmers’ markets in Florence on Wednesdays, Amherst and Northampton on Saturdays. Since the majority of their marketing is accomplished by word of mouth, be sure to tell your friends just how sweet a stop to their table really is!