Month: May 2019

Making Our Mark

February 5, 2018 was a day that was “history making” in the then 147 years (now 148) of Bishop’s Orchards being in business. While it wasn’t a day that was record setting in sales, or a new business venture for our evolving farm and market, it was a day when the 6th Generation females in the business were promoted to Executive Leaderships roles in the company. The key word in that sentence is “females.” For the last 5 generations, all Executive roles were held by Bishop Men.  While there have been other Bishop women that have played important roles in the business, never has the company been run by them.

The 5th Generation Co-CEO’s of Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market and Winery transitioned their leadership and daily operations to the two of us, sisters, of the 6th generation of family members. Sarah Bishop DellaVentura and Carrie Bishop Healy were promoted to be the company’s Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer respectively.  Both of us grew up in the family business, working alongside our parents, Keith & Debbie in numerous roles starting during our teenage years (at least that’s when we first received a legal paycheck).

Growing up in the family business may have looked differently to us than it did to the previous generations. We were always around and seeing different aspects as our parents and grandparents all worked in the business, but we weren’t necessarily doing the “hard labor” on the farm that Keith (our father) and Jonathan (our second cousin – once removed) did growing up. Being part of 4 siblings we all had our different strengths and interests, and we never felt pressured to join the business.

We both chose our own paths after high school and we ultimately ended back in the business. Coming from different backgrounds in degree choices in college and previous work experience (which is required before joining the business full time) allows us to have different areas of focus in the business. It strengthens the company and ourselves to be able to come from different sides, but at the end of the day we balance each other to do what is best.

We have watched this business evolve over the years in the hands of previous generations and we take pride in continuing what they have built. We have committed ourselves to the business, as well as our staff and the community. As a family business, six generations in, we want to continue to carry on the business and stewardship for future generations to come with the same high reputation and regard and expanding on the areas that complement the business.

We look forward to communicating with all of you in the months to come about new initiatives and exciting projects we are working on, our community relations, as well as interesting stories that we think you might enjoy reading about.  We love hearing from our customers too; We encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with us!

We thought we would leave you with a couple clues to some upcoming news we will be sharing with you in the coming weeks… Clue one has to do with plastic bags, and Clue two has to do with a sweet treat!  Stay tuned!

Thank you for your Patronage!

Sarah Bishop DellaVentura and Carrie Bishop Healy

All Things Local & Fresh!

We have officially begun the start of our peak season here at Bishop’s Orchards. Spring represents growth on the farm, with an abundance of locally grown produce making its way into the farm market. We LOVE this time of year when picking fresh is easier than ever! Whether it be Bishop’s own produce, picking your own, or from other local farms, this time of year is only the beginning of what’s to come!

Strawberry season is right around the corner and perfect for families to enjoy once school is out! Our strawberries always signify the start of our Pick Your Own season here at Bishop’s Orchards. Strawberry season, though short and quick, is highly anticipated because these berries are delicious and juicy! Whether you are picking some up in the farm market or picking your own in the fields, there is nothing fresher! Generally, strawberries are available in the farm market early June, with the pick your own fields opening mid-June. Mark your calendars for a day of fun, taking your family and friends out to the pick your own fields!

Right now, we have a limited supply of our popular Bishop’s Asparagus, which we expect to have for another three weeks. Also, our Herb Plants are continuously coming in from the greenhouse. Currently we have basil, flat parsley, dill, thyme, cilantro & rosemary. Soft grounds from all the rain, make this the perfect time for planting these plants in your own garden! Local spinach from Anderson Farms in Wethersfield is available in the farm market. This family farm has been around since 1856. They grow around thirty different fruits and vegetables that they distribute all over the state. Local tomatoes from March Farms in Bethlehem will be making their way into the farm market soon. March Farms has been around since 1915 with about 130 acres and dozens of greenhouses.

Keep an eye out for more locally grown produce coming into the Farm Market. For a line-up on what more you can expect from this year’s pick your own schedule, visit our website!



Update from the Winery

We’re in the midst of working with over 15 batches of fruit fermenting from last year’s crops, racking and preparing for blending and bottling. It’s exciting because we have several out of stock popular wines that will be re-released in June, like our Double Gold Winner Rubus’ Nightfall, Hyland Red (both made with our own raspberries), Crimson Rose, Whitfield’s Pearadox and Strawberry Delight.  Plan a visit to our wine bar soon to check out these wines!

For those of you who like a refreshing Sparkling Wine, we are in the formulation and label approval process with TTB for a Strawberry Wine blend, made with our own strawberries. This will complement our other sparkling products, Rubus’ Nightfall, Sachem’s Twilight and Hard Ciders.

Speaking of Hard Ciders, stay tuned as we are preparing for a mid-summer launch of several new hard ciders, to be released in cans. Our constant desire to be ‘greener’ means a shift to aluminum cans from bottles for our most popular ciders, as they are much more easily recycled and less bulky. Thimble Island Brewery in Branford started having our Hard Cider on tap in October, and we will be expanding our on-tap locations as our production capacity allows.  Remember, our Hard Ciders and Wines are made with Gluten free ingredients.

Did you know that our Hard Cider is truly local, fresh and all fruit based?  Its 100% fresh apple cider, fermented in batches of 200 to 500 gallons, using multiple yeast strains, then blended together for the desired flavor profiles.  We do not use concentrates, flavorings or dilute the cider.  It is then aged for 3 to 12 months to further develop its character.  Many non-farm based Cideries buy juice or concentrate as they need it made with cull apples, (‘dessert’ varieties packed for supermarket shelves) that do not have the flavor profiles to make a rich flavorful hard cider. Our blends are heavy on varieties including IdaRed, Stayman, Golden Delicious and Jonagold, with less known varieties like Baldwin, Russet, plus culls from our packing line.

Mike Costa joined us an Assistant Winemaker last fall and I’m pleased to have his talents working to grow our offerings and keep a watchful eye on quality that is driven by excellent sanitation procedures.

Finally, I would be remiss to reflect that work on legislative issues to support and protect agriculture have also kept me busy.  As the final weeks of the CT Legislature’s 2019 session are upon us, we still have major work to fine tune HB 647 regarding liquor permits and sales, and not have other bills put undue burdens on small businesses, including farmers like us.  Your support for our business is appreciated and supports our managing over 300 acres of land.

Look forward to seeing you on our farm, Keith Bishop

Lots of Changes on the Farm

The most important time of year for a farmer is spring. Grounds have thawed out, rain has been pouring in, and temperatures are finally rising!! A lot is going on this time of year, but there is of course some obstacles to overcome. This year the rain has been even more than usual, creating difficult conditions on the farm as we are trying to get work done. With brief openings from the rain, we had some time to lay plant biodegradable plastic. Planting on biodegradable plastic makes weeds less of an issue, we can run drip irrigation tubing under it, is easy to transplant into, and it breaks down at the end of the season, sometimes before we would like. We have planted Carrots, Swiss Chard, Beets, and new to us, Spigiarello Broccoli. Weeds are a constant problem with direct seeded crops, so we need to be diligent and keep them under control. Plastic will be used for crops that can be started in the greenhouse and transplanted. Some crops don’t transplant well (see economics) so those are direct seeded.

At the end of April, we began to harvest asparagus. Asparagus has a very finite harvest season. Seven weeks is the harvest period from when the first spears are cut, to the last. Weather plays a great role in the production. In cooler weather like we have been experiencing intermittently, asparagus doesn’t grow very quickly. Right now, we are cutting 175-200 pounds a day off of two acres. It must be cut every day regardless of how much is cut. In warmer weather, we cut 300-350 pounds a day. This crop is the only one that we raise, where production is most affected by the weather (excluding hail or natural disasters). We hope to continue harvesting asparagus through to mid-June.

A lot of change is happening in our greenhouse. We produce about 100,000 transplants out of the greenhouses.  Our vegetable transplants are produced on a schedule so they go out in good, warm weather, usually after mid/late May to mid-June. However, not all of the transplants are for vegetable crops. Flowers are a big part of our transplants grown too. The bouquets sold in the store and for our CSA program are produced from these transplants. So, when you see a sign over tomatoes, squash, flowers or maybe cucamelons, that says “Bishop’s Own” you will know that it was started by seed on the farm, grown on the farm and traveled only a short distance to you at the store. Our greenhouses are getting quite full, with mother nature not much help. Even with the best planning, Mother Nature always manages to get the last say.  This can make a full house even fuller when transplants are ready to go but excessive rain and cold tells you otherwise. Potted herbs were transplanted in March so that they could make their debut by the beginning of May.  To keep the plants in the store until early September we seed every 10-14 days.

We had a nice peach bloom and hopefully a nice set (pollination). In peaches, it’s better to have too many blossoms than too few to assure proper fruit spacing, but it also means we will have a lot of thinning to do. Thinning is required to get fruit size, balance the crop load, and minimize the potential for broken limbs. We tell our help that you want fruit about six inches apart. Assume each peach is 2.5-3 inches we would maximize fruit spacing. A branch that is 24 inches long could theoretically hold four Peaches. Peach thinning, done when they are the size of an adult’s thumb, is very time consuming, and can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to do a tree. That makes thinning very expensive, but since spacing is critical, hand thinning is the best way.

When we plant a new block of trees it will take three to four years to get a viable crop, so to help cover the cost we will, where we can, inter-plant Strawberries. Strawberries will only produce economically three or sometimes four years, so it is the perfect crop to plant every other row in a new peach block. When we finish harvesting the berries this June, we will take the pants out and plant grass in the middle. Strawberry blossoms are in and so far, it is looking to be a promising season. We hope to have our own strawberries in the farm market early to mid-June, and available for pick your own at the end of June.