In memory of Raymond Woodsmall Sr. (1897-1977)
My father-in-law, Raymond Woodsmall Jr. (1922-2011)
And dedicated to Uncle Jack Woodsmall (1928-2015)
These men are the original apple orchard overseers
Apple orchards are a large part of the Woodsmall family history. For nearly fifty years, Raymond Woodsmall Sr., my husband’s grandfather, was an overseer of an apple orchard in Leominster, Massachusetts. My father-in-law and his younger brother Jack worked on that apple orchard from the time they were little boys until they left home to serve in the military.
That orchard is called Sholan Farms, and the original farmhouse was built in the 1730s. Although Raymond Woodsmall Sr. never owned the land or the house, he moved into the original farmhouse before the Depression as a young man in his prime and remained there as an overseer of the orchard until he was no longer capable of such hard work. He then made room for a younger overseer and moved from the original farmhouse to a smaller place on the land, but he continued helping with the orchard until a few years before he died.
My husband grew up making yearly visits with his family to that farmhouse where his grandparents lived, and he spent hours walking the orchard with his grandpa and sitting under apple trees, mesmerized by the stories his grandpa told. Our children sat around the dinner table listening to their dad share those same stories.
Grandpa Woodsmall saw the apple orchard through droughts, floods, blizzards, pestilence, and the worst tragedy of all, the Great Hurricane of 1938, which nearly destroyed the orchard. He and his two sons worked long, hard years to restore the apple trees.
Years passed, and his two sons joined the military. They never returned to work the orchard again.
In 1982 the house sustained damage from a fire, and what was left of the home was dismantled, sold, and shipped to unknown destinations. Later, the orchard was abandoned. It was during this time I first walked that land. While viewing the acres of dying trees, I longed for what had once existed.
Clearly others were stirred too. In 2001 the Sholan Farms Preservation Committee (SFPC) purchased the land. Soon afterward, a new group was formed, Friends of Sholan Farms (FOSF ), and they took on the task of revitalizing as much of the orchard as possible. Today on twenty acres of the original sixty-acre farm is a thriving orchard where families from across the States can come and pick their own apples. The land now produces four thousand bushels of apples per year. I know Grandpa Woodsmall would be pleased.
Welcome to Amish Vines and Orchards.
Come with me into the Amish Country of Pennsylvania, into an apple orchard farmed in the same way Grandpa Woodsmall and his sons farmed all those years ago. Let’s take a journey that will be a tapestry of what was, what is, and—perhaps—what will be.