Carrie Healy, part of the Bishop family’s sixth generation, always knew she wanted to come back into the family business, it was just a matter of time. Carrie started working at Bishop’s Orchards in high school doing various jobs – from cashier to managing the concessions trailer, she got an overall understanding of the family business at a young age. However, it is a family rule that in order for a family member to come back into the business, they have to do at least two years of business somewhere else, in a related field, to gain “real world” experience.
So, off Carrie went. First stop was college in the Boston area where she studied Accounting. She then worked for seven years in corporate Accounting and Auditing for two different companies. “I always wanted to come back into the business. Even in high school I knew someday I wanted to come back. After being in Boston and working those jobs, my husband and I wanted to start our family. Once we had our first daughter we decided it was a good time to move back to Guilford and join the family business.”
All her hard work in, and outside of the company paid off. Carrie was recently promoted from Accounting Manager to Chief Financial Officer. “With this new promotion I now deal with the administrative side of the business. Everything from financial information, books, HR, IT and the other administrative work we have – I oversee the strategic growth in all these areas.”
Working at Bishop’s is definitely more unique than being anywhere else, Carrie explains. “Going from Corporate America to this is definitely different, but it’s a nice family knit organization where you know everybody. You don’t have to have Bishop in your name to be treated like family and I think that’s a very important aspect of our business. We strive to treat everyone like our own and take care of each other – it’s a big piece of that for me, and that’s why I love it.”
As for the future of the company, Carrie says the biggest thing they strive for is that the business continues in the ever changing economy and food trend industry and they meet the wants and needs of the customers. “We always have to be on top of our game when it comes to what we offer to customers. We need to make sure we’re offering what our customers and community want in addition to figuring out what the niche markets enjoy so we can add experiences that aren’t already in the area. Our biggest thing is talking to our customers and seeing what they want and providing that to them through our business. We employ a lot of people in town which is important to us, and we want to make our employees and customers happy.”
Brad Isnard expected to spend his life out in California. But, when he moved to Connecticut in 1990, he took a job as an Orchard Foreman at Bishop’s Orchards, and over 20 years later he has a lot to show for his time here. He’s learned the ins and outs of the business and has become an expert on the production and caretaking of the land and crops grown on the farm. His time, experience, and expertise of the farm is what led to his recent promotion as the new Orchard Manager.
His role at the company allows him to oversee cider production and all packing and sales of Bishop’s items, in addition to activity and labor on the farm. When you think about winter on the farm, it’s easy to assume there’s nothing to do because it’s cold and there’s snow. But in actuality, winter is when all the pruning happens. “It’s the single biggest job we have on the farm,” says Brad. “But, in addition to pruning, we’re also buying seeds and are in the process of figuring out exactly what we’re going to grow for the coming year. From the squash you see growing out on the side of Long Hill Road, to tomatoes, asparagus and more. It takes a lot of time to get the seeds and plan for the season ahead, so the earlier we start the better.”
Brad also started the CSA Program (Community Shared Agriculture) here at Bishop’s Orchards. “I wanted to start the CSA Program because frequently the farm gets overshadowed by the store since it’s become such a substantial farm market. I thought the farm didn’t get the credit that it’s due. So, I wanted to create a program that showcased the farm and the products we grow while also allowing people to learn more about the farm since not many people know about agriculture. We also had a lot more land to utilize to grow more crops, so I wanted to find a way to bring people back to the farm so they could have a unique and exclusive experience.”
Working at Bishop’s has not only given Brad the flexibility he likes, but the atmosphere and the people give him a reason to appreciate coming to work every day. “The seasonal aspect of the job makes it all the more enjoyable. If there’s a job you don’t like, you don’t do it for long because there’s so many to do. And what makes working here unique is the fact that the owner’s are just as willing to “get in the ditch” as you are – I like the shared labor from top to bottom.”
“So, what do you do in the winter?” is a question I often get asked. Quite a lot, actually. Winter is the time when we prep and repair equipment for the coming spring. We still have apples and pears in the cold storage to pack and sell. We also try to save a few “inside” jobs for when it is actually raining or snowing, but mostly we are pruning our apple, pear and peach trees. As I mentioned in my last posting, we have 17,000 trees that must be pruned before April, so anytime it isn’t snowing or raining, we are outside pruning.
I have also had folks ask me why we prune if the trees aren’t very big yet. We actually start pruning or training the tree as soon as we plant it. It is important to get the tree started off right and the first several years in the life of a fruit tree is the time we build the framework or structure of the tree. Once the structure of the tree is established, the pruning process is mostly thinning, renewing and cutting back branches to maintain the tree. Over the years I have had friends, customers and neighbors with fruit trees who call several years after they have planted the tree in their yard and they figure it is time to think about pruning it. Usually in these cases the trees are too far gone to ever have a chance of establishing a proper structure.
There are lots of resources on the internet. Here is an example of one that covers the basics.
There are articles and even YouTube videos on the subject.
Pruning and training fruit trees are equal parts science and art (Some aspects of farming require equal parts science, art and luck.) Every tree is a little different, but once you understand enough about what the goals are, you can “see” the cuts you need to make. You will be pruning for the current crop, as well as leaving some branches that will be the renewal wood to take the place of the current framework and fruiting wood in the tree.
One of the things I love about farming is that you have a very tangible measure of what you have accomplished. At the end of a day, you can look back down a row or across a field and see what you have accomplished. There is beauty in a well-pruned tree and you can see you made a difference and imagine how that tree will look in the spring with blossoms or in fall, full of fruit.