Spotlight on Business: Walker Fruit Ranch
Growing Fruit, Family & Traditions
A quaint little green fruit stand sits at the end of South Mill Road marked with the original “Walker Fruit Ranch” sign. It is a familiar and cheery welcome to the Valley of Plenty’s famous South Slope and where locals and visitors return year after year to find just-picked fresh fruit, amazing cherry jam, chocolate-covered cherries and a warm greeting from one of the family.
But this little booth of bounty represents more than just a place where fruit is sold; it is a symbol marking their family values and their commitment to grow and sell locally. Officially established in 1971, it is a four-generation family-owned business; Bryce and Lynda Walker, Travis and Laurel (Walker) Whittemore and their children, Hailey (14), Jacob (12), Kyle (9) and Cali (3) all contribute to the success of the business, even little Cali who is in charge of “quality control” as a taste-tester.
“When I first got into fruit full-time I had 100 acres with 60 in production,” said Bryce. “Like everyone else back in the day, we sold nationally and had a big operation and shipped all over. I sold the business but was fortunate to be able to buy part of that back. Today, we live and work on the same property my dad and mom had and where we first planted apples. The kids live just across the field. Now we only grow what we can sell out our little fruit stand.”
Laurel did convince the family to try a booth at the 2012 Emmett Cherry Festival which featured her Cherry Jam, a secret recipe only known to the family, handmade soaps and chocolate covered cherries.
“It was so much fun,” said Laurel. “We sold 268 jars of our Cherry Jam in two days. People were coming back for more and some were buying by the dozen as gifts. Besides our secret recipe, we use perfectly ripe cherries which give it an amazing flavor. Our valley is famous for cherries and other fruit so visitors were happy to find our cherry products to buy at the festival. It was a huge success.”
Cherry season is now past and apricots are almost done. If you hurry, a few varieties may still be available this week. In September, they offer late peaches, Asian Pears and Jonathon, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples. Their website is updated weekly and is a terrific source of information about what is available, recipes for the fruit you purchased, directions to the ranch and a little family history.
Travis wrapped up the reason for why the family “grows” by saying, “All my life I’ve been a consumer. Now I want to be a producer.”
Walker Fruit Ranch is located at 3920 S. Mill Rd.www.WalkerFruitRanch.com or 899-5558 or 899-6149.