- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. (AP) - The Civil War had been over for only 20 years when Lindley and Mary Farlow settled in a log cabin on a quiet piece of land in western Howard County and planted their first apple trees.

It was 1885 when Lindley first planted those trees. Little did he know that Farlow family members he would never meet would carry on his legacy of fruit-farming for the next 132 years.

And after all that time, what originally started as just a hobby for Lindley Farlow has now become one of the oldest apple orchards in Indiana that’s still in the same family.

It all started when Mary’s father saw 40 acres of farmland about a mile from New London go for sale. He contacted his daughter and son-in-law, who were living in Paoli at the time. He told Lindley and Mary that the land was better for farming in the northern part of the state, and they should move there.

The couple ended up agreeing, and moved to Howard County to the land called Middlebrook Farm. They brought their children along, too, including 3-year-old Ed Farlow, who would later take over the orchard.

Although she was 10 when her grandfather Lindley passed away, 104-year-old Mary Isabel Farlow Ransopher has heard the stories of her family’s history, and lived that history her entire life. She was born to Ed and Pansy Farlow in 1912 in the house that her grandparents moved into just a few decades before.

“There are orchards in southern Indiana,” Ransopher said. “So I imagine (Lindley) brought that heritage from Paoli up here. Everybody had a chicken house and a little orchard, but there wasn’t any commercial orchard in the area.”

In the beginning, Lindley’s main priority and major source of income was to get a farm operation up and running. Most of the work revolved around the cattle, sheep, hogs, goats and horses. They transported eggs and cheese via stagecoach along a regular delivery route to customers in Howard County.

The fruit trees in the front yard were just supplementary income. Neighbors would stop in to buy some, and in the fall, Lindley would take apples to sell at grocery stores in Kokomo.

Around 1920, Ed and Pansy took over the orchard. They planted more apple trees and expanded the orchard into more of a fruit farm, growing raspberries, gooseberries, currants, peaches and pears.

Soon, the name Farlow became synonymous with the fruit farm north of Russiaville.

“Everybody came here,” Ransopher remembers. “I’d say, ‘I’m from Farlow’s Orchard,’ and they’d know where that is.”

Growing up, Ransopher stayed busy with apple-related chores. She and her four brothers would peel apples and spread out newspaper over the tin roof to dry them. Afterwards, they were used in dried apple pie.

“We lived on apples,” Ransopher said. “As far as cooking, why, we cooked them every kind. Mother had a special apple for every special thing. One that was better for pies. One that was better for baking. And one that was better for applesauce or apple butter.”

When Ransopher was a teenager, her brothers would go and pick apples, and she’d sell them. At the time, there were at least 15 different varieties. She had every one of them memorized, as well as how they were best utilized for baking.

Her favorite was Grimes Golden, an apple that starts out tart, but later turns sweet.

Debbie Farlow Taylor, who currently owns the orchard with her husband Bob Taylor, said she never met her great-grandfather, Lindley, or grandfather, Ed, but she remembers hearing about the Peddler’s Track that her grandfather started.

He and the family would load up apples into an old truck and set off down West 250 South, which was a gravel road in those days. As the Farlow truck slowly rumbled down the bumpy road toward Kokomo, people would come out of their houses waving their hands and hollering that they wanted to buy some apples.

After selling most their apples along the road, Ed and the family would then make it to the corner of what is now Indiana 26 and Indiana 931 and set up a stand to peddle even more fruit.

“The story is that the apples would be so bruised from the rough ride up there that they would want to get rid of them before they got to Kokomo,” Debbie laughed.

But when Ed eventually offered the family livelihood to his children, none of them wanted to take over. They all knew running the orchard was a lot of work. So he offered it to them a second time in the late 1940s.

That’s when Debbie’s parents, Joe and Annabell, took over the orchard. Debbie said her dad just couldn’t bear to see the place sold to a stranger.

Like many of her family before her, Debbie grew up on Farlow’s Orchard. She never did much apple picking, but her parents still put her to work by the time she was about 10 years old. They just had to teach her how to make change first.

“I started selling apples as soon as I learned to add,” Debbie said. “My dad didn’t call it a job. He called it a reward.”

And like her family before her, she got used to eating apples - lots of apples.

“My dad thought applesauce had to be at every meal,” Debbie said. “And we had applesauce at every meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner. I didn’t eat it. I didn’t like it when I was a kid. Too mushy.”

But as she grew older, Debbie learned to like applesauce. She also grew to appreciate the family history surrounding Farlow’s Orchard. But she never thought she’d own it someday.

“I honestly thought I’d marry somebody and we’d move away,” she said. “I loved it here, but I guess I always had in my mind that once my dad died it’d be the end of it. When I met Bob in 1973, that changed everything.”

Debbie and Bob Taylor were both in their 20s when they started dating, and after Debbie put a good word in for her boyfriend with her dad, Bob was hired at Farlow‘s. Not only did Bob enjoy the outdoor work, but he got along well with his future father-in-law.

So when Joe offered him a partnership at the orchard, Bob couldn’t turn him down. Little did they know they would own the orchard shortly after getting married when Joe unexpectedly died in 1976 from a heart attack. The young couple officially bought the orchard from Debbie’s mom, Annabell, two years later.

Together, they expanded the orchard by 12 acres, the largest acreage of orchard in the family’s history. They also started cutting down trees that weren’t producing well and planting new ones in their place.

But they soon learned not to take down a big group of trees by the road all at once.

“You don’t do that,” Bob said. “Everyone said Farlow’s is going out of business.”

So they changed their strategy to revamp the orchard. Now, they plant 50 to 60 new trees every year, and take out the other ones more discreetly. The oldest trees in the orchard today date back 70 years, when they were planted by Debbie’s dad.

But how the couple manages the orchard changed in the late 1980s, when Debbie went back to school. She now works full time at St. Vincent Indianapolis and also as the bookkeeper for her family’s orchard, while Bob is the main operator.

“People who don’t know me call me Bob Farlow,” Bob laughed. “They’ll come out here and say Mr. Farlow.”

Even though his last name is Taylor, changing the name of the orchard was never an option. Bob said he made a promise to his father-in-law that he’d never do that.

Although the name hasn’t changed, Farlow’s Orchard has grown and evolved since the fourth generation took over more than 40 years ago.

“Every year, every family, every generation has helped improve it,” Debbie said. “I feel honored that every generation before me has thought enough to keep it up so that we could do something with it at this stage.”

Over the years, old barns have been taken down and new ones have gone up. They’ve started growing new apple varieties like their bestselling Mutsu. They installed a new-and-improved cider mill.

The orchard has also had to adapt to more stringent health regulations, which came into play in the 1980s. For the first hundred years, there were no government regulations on how to grow apples or produce cider.

The Taylors say it’s not easy owning and running a family-owned business. But the work is worthwhile. The orchard is ingrained with tradition, and tending to the trees is a craft that’s been passed down for generations.

“These aren’t just apple trees. They’re almost like kids,” Bob said. “You raise the apples.”

But that family tradition will soon come to an end.

Bob said he likes the fact there’s something to do every day like trimming trees, making cider, grading apples, spraying or mowing. But at his age, the manual labor is getting harder and harder.

“I’m 61 and I’m still trying to do a 25-year-old man’s job,” Bob said. “It’s getting to me more. When you’re lifting bushel crates seven-high over your head, that’s when it’s bad.”

Debbie, 60, estimates they’ll retire from the family business in the next 10 years. Then they’ll sell the orchard and likely move away. Due to medical issues, their son J.R. isn’t able to take over the orchard, and none of their extended family has any interest in taking over.

This, she said, will be the last chapter in the history of the 132-year-old Farlow’s Orchard.

“We’ll be the last generation to run the orchard,” she said. “My son can’t do it. My nieces and nephews aren’t interested. I expect it will go by the wayside. It breaks my heart. It’ll all be gone.”


Source: Kokomo Tribune


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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