After a century in business, it’s safe to say the Fifer family’s green thumb is flourishing.
Visitors flock year-round to the Camden Wyoming–based Farm Store for fresh, local food items, and to the orchards and vines to pick their own produce. Since 1919, when Charles Frederick Fifer moved the family from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to Delaware’s Kent County, the mission has been the same: “to grow and sell high-quality produce while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values,” according to the company’s website.
“Our family takes great pride in continuing the legacy of farming the fertile lands of Delmarva and passing it onto the next generation,” says Michael Fifer, co-owner and operator of Fifer Orchards. “The Fifer family has been stewarding the soils of Kent County for over 100 years now. It’s satisfying to help keep the land in agriculture as we grow nutritious food, protect open spaces, encourage wildlife habitat and retain the natural beauty of Delaware.”
Charles found that Kent County’s moderate climate and well-draining soil (meaning water does not pool) provided ideal conditions for growing a diverse mix of fruits and vegetables, including peaches, pears, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, lima beans, asparagus and strawberries.
Starting out with just 300 acres, Charles invested in his belief in crop diversification, farmland stewardship and growing good produce. His dream continued over a century later with third – and fourth-generation family members operating the farm today.
The farm services the community in a multitude of ways, something Michael and his family pride themselves on.
“We grow and package many types of fresh fruits and veggies, then distribute them to a variety of customers, including grocery stores, schools, restaurants, farmers markets, food-box programs and other local food stores in Delaware and the mid-Atlantic region,” he explains.
And even when the pandemic altered our everyday lives, the fruits and vegetables kept growing and the Fifers thought on their feet to continue to serve their customers.
“Opening day for our Farm Store was scheduled for April 3, 2020. We decided not to open the doors to the public but instead provide a curbside pickup program for the safety of our staff and customers. We pivoted quickly by using an online ordering software tool that we normally used strictly for our restaurant and wholesale accounts. The developer of that software program worked with us daily to adapt this tool for online retail customer use,” Michael says.
In June, the Farm Store also opened to walk-in shoppers. The open-air design allows guests to spread out and enjoy the fresh air. The farm also began offering some U-Pick experiences and other activities throughout the season, using timed-ticketing reservations to control attendance and maintain safe social distancing.
Guests at Fifer Orchards can U-Pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, pumpkins and sunflowers, depending on the time of year they visit. The orchard also hosts events to help celebrate different crops throughout the growing season.
“[U-Pick] is a fun and memorable experience for local families. It allows them to enjoy the crops at the peak of flavor and freshness, and to see exactly where their food comes from,” Michael says.
Michael says the farm plans to continue U-Pick this spring, possibly with the same or similar COVID-19 precautions to those they took in 2020. Upcoming events are pending until they know it’s safe to hold them for customers.
The next curbside pickup will be held March 13, with more details available on Fifer’s website and social media. Michael says interested customers can select from up to 250 items and place their orders online. The pickup process is completely contactless, with a drive-through system.
The farm also recently expanded with a newly completed Farm Kitchen. The new space helped increase production of signature items like Fifer’s apple cider doughnuts, pies, apple dumplings, kettle corn, cider slushies and ice cream.
Michael says they really felt a sense of community from customers and staff who continually adjusted with the times.
“Our staff has been incredible. Everyone is working together with a passion and a purpose to provide the community with fresh food in the safest possible way. Our Farm Store has made significant changes to our normal routine, but the entire team has stayed very flexible, positive and upbeat throughout the numerous changes.” Michael says.
The Farm Store will reopen with regular hours this April, likely before the Easter holiday, offering seasonal, local and homegrown fruits and vegetables, and more.
1919 Allabands Mill Road, Camden Wyoming 697-2141 | fiferorchards.com