Ripe for the picking

Adrian Orchards opens for the 95th season and searches for someone who will keep the family tradition alive

By Angela Morefield

Adrian Orchards owners George and Monika Adrian are looking for someone to keep their family business alive after the third generation Adrian retires.

“We are looking for someone who will continue what were doing here,” Monika said. “Continue with the traditions and family values that have meant so much to us and so many people for generations.”

Adrian Orchards was established by George J. and Edith Adrian in 1925 when George J. started farming as a hobby on the side of his construction business. During that time, farming was essential for survival, especially in big families like the Adrians. George J.’s main business was construction, and he built several churches in the area. He also built the iconic Adrian Barn and the Adrian home next door.

George and Monika Adrian in front of the barn where their merchandise is sold. (Photo by Angela Morefield)

Following in the family footsteps, George’s sister Janet and her husband took over the responsibilities of the orchards after their grandparents and parents passed away. As much as Janet loved the orchard life, after her husband passed away she decided to move on, leaving the orchards to George and Monika. Janet now spends her time fishing in Canada and visits the family at the orchard from time to time.

Adrian Orchards is celebrating more than 90 years of serving the Greater Indianapolis area, the orchard nearest to the heart of Indianapolis. All of the produce is hand-picked at its orchards in Morgantown and washed before being put out for customers to purchase. The orchards offer seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as jams, jellies and household items. Customers not only come from the Southside of Indianapolis, but also from across Indiana and the U.S. Staff have even shipped frozen cider all the way to Hawaii.

George Adrian, with siblings, Janet and Phil, helped run Adrian Orchards in the 90s. (Submitted photo)

Adrian Orchards’ barn, its retail store, has a down-home vibe, making customers feel welcome. Part of the original kitchen cabinetry from the Adrian house still sits inside the barn today. Adrian Orchards is well known for its fresh, unpasteurized cider. Every batch has a different blend of orchard-grown apples, giving each batch its own unique flavor. People come from all over to purchase Adrian Orchards’ apple cider, which has won many awards and is one of its best sellers.

The Adrians have made a tough decision to find someone to take over their orchard so they can retire and rest. The Adrians’ only son passed away, leaving no successor for the family business.

The Adrians’ stated in their monthly news letter, ‘Our store has enjoyed solid support locally and is an important asset to the community. Since 1925 it has provided our family with a living, but now it is time to retire as George is over 70 and wants to slow down. … In the meantime we will continue to operate this season on a scaled-back timeline. We will again host the Harvest Fest this year in early October. Our hopes are that the next owners will continue this tradition.’

George’s grandparents, George and Edith, founders of Adrian Orchards. (Submitted photo)

This year, George and Monika will host the Harvest Fest 2019 on Oct. 5 and 6. During the Harvest Fest, the orchard offers a pumpkin patch, mini hayrides, a kids zone, music and plenty of craft and food vendors. Elizabeth Holloway, a longtime employee who has worked for the Adrians for 22 years, helps run the Harvest Fest each year. She studied business, and during the orchards’ off seasons, she and other employees usually find work at greenhouses.

Some of the Adrians’ favorite memories was having thousands of school children visit the orchards over the years for tours and to learn about farming. “Most kids know nothing about farming or even know how to properly store an apple.” George said, “You ask them where apples come from and they say the store. So we like teaching them and helping them learn to be healthy.”

Adrian Orchards is home to the Guinness World Record holder for the fastest apple picker. George Adrian picked 365 ½ bushels (15,351.5 lbs.) of apples in eight hours on Sept. 23, 1980. His record still stands today. The Adrians are also known for their giant, award-winning pumpkins that they used to grow and enter into contests. Monika Adrian said, “One year he got into it so badly, and we had to figure out how to feed this monster. So we got an IV bag from a nurse friend and we’re feeding it beer to gain weight. We had heard that the beer makes it heavy. It didn’t work but it was worth a shot.” The Adrians do not grow giant pumpkins for contest anymore, but still offer fall pumpkins for carving. George said, ” We don’t grow as many pumpkins as we used to, but we do still have a small, you-pick patch here.”

George Adrian picks apples for a photo in the 90s. (Submitted photo)

The store will close early this season, staying open through December but not past New Year’s as it has done in the past. Anyone with interest in purchasing the business are encouraged to contact Adrian Orchards to discuss options.

Adrian Orchards 500 W. Epler Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46217

SUMMER HOURS: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.

INFO: adrianorchards.com; Facebook.com/adrian.orchards

 

5 QUESTIONS WITH THE ADRIANS

1.  HOW DID YOU BECOME THE GUINNESS WORLD’S RECORD FASTEST APPLE PICKER?  I had to get a sponsor and verification of the weight of the apples by the Guinness book judges.

2.  HAVE YOU WON ANY OTHER AWARDS?  Multiple awards for our cider.

3.  WHAT IS YOUR BEST SELLER?  Apples of course, and our cider definitely.

4.  WHAT IS YOUR BUSIEST TIME OF YEAR?  September and October right after the harvest.

5.  WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY?  Watching all the children enjoy the orchards over the years.