Love and community built Linvilla Orchards, and continues to keep it running today.
Susan Jochum Linvill, co-owner and workaholic, squints at the sun, her sunglasses intertwined in her hair. Birds chirp and fly overhead as a cool breeze wisps through her messy ponytail and across her face. It’s the first warm day in a while, and we take in the beauty. We are sitting outside at a black metal table beside the farm’s market, just above the old Octagonal Barn. Sue reflects: “It makes for deep roots and really fun connections. The perk of living in Delco [Delaware County, PA] for 56 years is the tremendous community that I have between my siblings and their kids, and my parents; the closeness of family. The older I get the more important it becomes to me.”
The love and pride Sue feels as she describes the family business is apparent. She reaches for her multicolored coffee mug on the table and goes on to explain, “You can argue with a sibling and know that you still love each other, and you can’t do that with an employee. I have been in business with my brother, two sisters, and my dad for 30 years. We respect and love each other, and it comes across at Linvilla.”
Linvilla Orchards is a fourth generation business. Author Linvill passed the orchards down to his three sons, and Paul Linvill decided he wanted to keep the business when his two brothers went on to pursue new things. When Paul Linvill was ready to retire, he gave Linvilla to his four children, but, as Sue told me, “he is 89 years old and continues to work.”
The land that is now called Linvilla Orchards was purchased in 1914 by Author Linvill and his mother Lydia. When Author Linvill bought the property he planted fruit trees, and by the 2000s, customers came from all over Delaware Valley to buy the Linvill family’s products and learn about the orchard.
Linvilla has always thrived because of the owners, workers, and customers. Last year the orchard celebrated its 100th year.
The employees are always nice and willing to assist with whatever the customers need. I interviewed one of the employees at Linvilla Orchards; a farmer by the name of Norman Schultz. Schultz originally went to Villanova to become an engineer, but he knew that gardening/farming was his true calling. He took a year off from Villanova and decided to go to Delaware Valley which is now the University of Agriculture in Doylestown, PA. Four years after getting his degree in horticulture, Schultz moved to Connecticut to work on a strawberry farm for three years. However, he stayed in New England for 12 years and helped work 7 farms with Roger Phelps. In 1998, he saw Linvilla Orchards was looking for a new farmer manager and fell in love with the job.
A beautiful, glass-roofed garden center sits to the right of the parking lot with the new farm market a few hundred yards in front of it. Bright colored flowers and an assortment of plants, ranging from tall and large to short and tiny, are housed in the garden center. They sit in different size pots on wooden tables.
Sun shines through the opening roof; lanky plants with big leaves sway in the wind. A loud squeaking noise can be heard as the glass parts above. A clear plastic lines the roof under the glass that rustles as the wind blows. Wind-chimes clang all around the spacious room. The sound has a calming affect; it is the sound of summer.
Walking into the garden center, the wall to the left is lined with gardening equipment and black shelves hold multi-color cups and bowls; purple, green, red, and white. A rusted Jeep sits partly hidden in a thick group of plants. An old pick-up truck with a long wooden bed has become the home of several red, pink, and white Geraniums in the middle of the garden center.
A green roof sits on top of the wooden farm market. The market is full of canned foods; several different spaghetti sauces, peaches, pickles, syrup, and so many other yummy things to choose from. Fruits and vegetables line the back left wall before reaching the bakery; fresh limes, lemons, kiwi, peppers, radishes, carrots and every type of apple imaginable. Linvilla’s bakery is in the back of the farm market. It makes the most delicious apple cider doughnuts and loaf cake; banana, peach, cranberry, french vanilla, pumpkin and several other mouthwatering flavors. Arriving early in the morning, right when Linvilla opens, the smell of cookies, loaves of bread, and pies fill the farm market. These three tasty foods are baked fresh every morning.
Sue smiles as she tells me about the Barnyard, “We’ve had a farm animal display for 75 years. The white tailed deer were here when my dad was a kid, and he had horses, cows, and sheep. We just got two new calves, and my niece and nephew have been enjoying them since they got here.” A walkway sits between the garden center and the farm market that leads to the barnyard. It is located behind the market. A little booth sits to the right of the barnyard. In the booth is a gumball machine that contains corn to feed the pig, sheep, birds, and cows.
As I ask Sue what her dream is for Linvilla, roosters crow and children laugh somewhere behind us. She is quiet for a few moments after asked this question. She stares straight ahead as if in deep thought. “My dream is for Linvilla to keep growing. I think that what we do here is valuable to the community and to ourselves. The hope is to pass Linvilla down to the next generation.” Over 100 years later, and the hard work and love that started Linvilla Orchards is still present.