BOYERTOWN, PA -- You may think “farmer direct” and “local produce” are trendy concepts invented for the millennium, but Boyertown, Pennsylvania’s Frecon Farms has been getting their fruit directly into the hands of consumers almost since its inception in the 1940s. Mary Frecon, mother of farm founder Richard Frecon, started a roadside stand to sell the farm’s fresh fruit to travelers in the area in 1951. In the 1970s, the Frecons turned their roadside stand into a retail farm market.
Three generations of the Frecon family have contributed their talents to building this thriving agro-business. Aside from the farm and market, Frecon Farms also features a pick-your-own produce program and a line of hard ciders made with Frecon fruit.
In the fall, FruitGuys produce buyer Alex Scaletta toured the farm with Steve Frecon, the farm’s current co-owner and the grandson of founder Richard Frecon. Alex interviewed him about the farm’s history and current direction.
FruitGuys: How long has the farm been in business?
Steve Frecon: In 1944, my grandfather Richard S. Frecon moved to Berks County, PA, and purchased Boyertown Fruit Farms in the "Apple Basket" of the East. He established Frecon Orchards (later named Frecon Fruit Farm), focusing on apple and peach production. Richard and my grandmother Martha raised six children on the farm, all of whom have worked for the family business throughout the past 65 plus years. My dad, Henry Frecon, assumed responsibilities as President of the farms growing and packing operations in the 1970s.
Frecon: The Frecon family and their passion/involvement in the industry. When my grandfather started the farm I don’t think he could have imagined the path it would create for his children and grandchildren in addition to the impact they would have on the industry.
Richard Frecon--my grandfather--was a depression-era kid with no college education and only a Penn State short course in tree-fruit production under his belt when he purchased a farm and built a business and legacy that continues today.
FG: What do you grow on the farm?
Frecon: Our business is broadly diverse. We have a 175-acre farm and on it we grow 29 varieties of apples over 70 acres. We grow many standard dessert apples like Gala, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Fuji, McIntosh, Jonagold, and Cortland. Five acres of apple production is dedicated to heritage apple varieties for cider production, such as Gravensteins, Wickson Crab Apples, Winesap, Kingston Black, Golden Russet, and others, including experimental varieties from the wild apple forests of Kazakhstan.
Peaches and nectarines are our second largest crop. We grow many yellow, white, and “flat” varieties that ripen early through late season.
The remaining acreage is divided between cherries, pears, blueberries, plums, and apricots.
Aside from fruit, Frecon Farms also features the Frecon Cidery, which produces estate ciders and vinegars in small batches from select apples grown on the family farm.
These crops and products are available year-round at our retail store, nine community farmers markets, and by picking it yourself at our farm.
"Eat Fruit & Be Happy" is a phrase used often around our farm. It carries a lot of meaning to our family. Our family, like our country, is rooted in an agricultural life. This foundation has kept us together over the years bringing happiness and longevity to the family in many ways. We believe that agriculture will be a big part of our nation’s future and is key to our social health and security. Thank you to all the farmers out there who leave it all on the field day after day, and thank you to all those who support farming in America. You're doing more for each other and our country then you will ever know.
Alex Scaletta is the Buying and Receiving Supervisor for The FruitGuys East Coast facility in Philadelphia. He has two children and loves cooking and playing Nintendo. He has a degree in film from Purdue University.