Jeff and Lisa Broom are getting ready for another busy autumn in their Carlinville orchard and Farm Market. Customers will head into the orchard for you-pick apple days beginning Labor Day weekend, the orchard will celebrate its 35th anniversary Apple Fest Sept. 23 and 24, and family fun will fill the grounds two weekends later for the Pumpkin Festival Oct. 7 and 8. It’s all part of a business plan owners and customers alike appreciate, and the Brooms make it look easy.
Good business, good business sense
Jeff’s parents, Bill and Joan Broom, owned and operated the orchard as retailers and wholesalers from 1968 until 1998. They retired and sold the property to Jeff and Lisa, who have gradually transformed the business into the popular retail operation it is today. “My parents did a lot of wholesaling to grocery stores and packing houses. Now, 99 percent of the crop goes out the [Farm Market] door,” Jeff says.
“It used to be that [Jeff’s parents’] customers would buy huge amounts and ‘put them up,’” Lisa says, “but now customers like to come out and buy more often.” With the addition of new varieties that are harvested over more months, “customers can buy fresh new varieties on the Farm Market table every two weeks,” she adds. It’s just one factor in their longevity.
“Lisa and I work at it. We’ve made it a priority. We go to conventions. I’m currently the president of the Illinois State Horticulture Society,” says Jeff. “We pursue new ideas. It’s our life.”
More than a store
The Brooms’ hard work, good product and down-to-earth style create loyal and enthusiastic customers. “Our customer base draws from all of south central Illinois, pretty much state line to state line,” says Jeff.
Dale Unverferth of Monmouth started buying fruit from Jeff’s parents 35 years ago, and now thoroughly enjoys his summer trip to Jeff and Lisa’s Farm Market. “They do a fantastic job,” says Unverferth.
“I go for the Red Haven peaches,” Unverferth says. “I went about a month ago and bought my supply. I call it ‘Christmas in July.’ I used to buy 15 to 20 bushels, but this year I just bought 10 bushels. I treat my friends to a wonderful product, so sweet and juicy. It’s been a fun thing I like to do for friends in the middle of summer.”
“It’s different from other orchards, being here in Carlinville. We’re in a small hometown,” says Lisa. “We’re not going to get people pulling off the interstate to find us. We have to please our repeat customers. We concentrate on our strengths, not on offering so much other stuff.
“Our number one goal is growing good fruit and providing an atmosphere where people can come out and buy locally grown fruit for a good price.”
It shows, says Unverferth. “They have done such wonderful things with their produce and their festivals. They really serve the public in a way their customers appreciate.
“They’ve been almost like family friends over the years,” Unverferth adds. “You come to think of them that way, as people you really appreciate for who they are and what they do.”
Families will be out soon to pick apples and play games at this year’s Apple Fest Sept. 23 and 24.
“We’ll have a lot of musical entertainment, food, vendors, bakery items, bounce houses, face painting, cider slush, popcorn; just good country fun for families to come out, go through the orchard and enjoy the day,” says Lisa. “We have a maze and room to run,” Jeff adds.
Just two weeks later and continuing into the fall, Broom Orchard will highlight pumpkins and autumn, including more pick-your-own apples, homemade caramel apples and cider, a corn maze, straw maze and fall activities.
By somewhere around Thanksgiving, Broom Orchard will close for the season. The Brooms will donate any remaining apples for Carlinville’s Christmas Basket giveaway for persons in need and then, next July, be rested and ready to do it all again.
Contact DiAnne Crown at firstname.lastname@example.org