By CATHERINE BOYCE
Since 1809, Rogers Orchards has been producing their family’s fruit for Southington and the surrounding communities. The original owner, Chauncey Merriman purchased the farm despite the risks of Connecticut weather which still propose a threat to Connecticut farmers today.
After 207 years, the farm is still producing some of the freshest produce around under management of seventh-generation farmer, John Rogers, his son Peter, his daughter Martha, and his son-in-law Greg Parzych.
Today, Rogers Orchards has become a signature farm in the region and farmers grow 10 varieties of peaches including Harmony, White Lady, and Garnet Beauty, 20 varieties of apples including Gala, Macoun, McIntosh, and Red Delicious, pears, plums, necarines, and apricots.
Back in the 1980s, John Rogers had the idea to plant semi dwarf trees in order to have more trees per acre and increase production. With the increase in production, Rogers was able to look for new ways to reach more consumers. Rogers started the farms bakeries and also partnered with a few grocery stores, one of which was Stop & Shop.
For over 30 years, Rogers Orchards and Stop & Shop have worked together to provide Stop & Shop’s customers with fresh local produce all across the state of Connecticut.
To this day, Stop & Shop has been one of Rogers Orchards oldest and longest partners. Every year, Rogers Orchards provides apples to almost 80 Connecticut Stop & Shop stores, along with pears and peaches. Rogers was one of the first farms in Connecticut to grow and sell peaches. Unfortunately due to an intense winter in Connecticut, peaches will not be available for the 2016 season.
Although Peter Rogers and his family are feeling optimistic about their apples since the sun and heat this season has been ideal for apple production. Jersey Macs, Paula Reds, and Ginger Golds will be the first apples to hit the shelves at your local Stop & Shop with Galas, Honey Crisps, Jonamacs and McIntoshs right after.
Stop & Shop said, “Providing locally grown produce is important to Stop & Shop and to our customers. Not only are we supporting a local farmer from a business perspective, we are also providing our customers with the freshest produce in the region. Many times, the produce is picked and packaged on a Wednesday and in our stores on a Thursday. You cannot get any fresher than that.”
Rogers Orchards communicates directly with Stop & Shop’s store produce manager three times a week and usually delivers three or four times per week depending on how much is selling off the shelves to provide Stop & Shop customers with the freshest produce around. In addition, apples are stored in low-oxygen storage facilities to ensure quality from the fall harvest through the winter months.
Peter Rogers shared that the store produce manager does a great job providing feedback from their customers. Based off that information, they know exactly what is in demand at any given time, and yesterday’s comments affect today’s deliveries.
“It’s tree to store put out that day and the quality is super high because there is not a lot of handling,” said Peter. Rogers also has year round employees that work specifically with their distribution to ensure they can meet their wholesale demands.
To continue improving their productivity, Rogers Orchards also has taken John Roger’s 1980s methods and pushed it one step further. They have planted fully dwarf trees to take the place of some older trees that aren’t as productive as they once were.
Rogers also works with UConn and is continually looking for newer popular apples, and taking suggestions of what is in demand by their consumers.
“Rogers Orchards is a farm that offers a variety of the freshest produce,” Stop & Shop officials said in a press release about local growers. “They are a fantastic farm and their produce is appreciated by our customers. We are thrilled with the partnership.”
Likewise, Peter Rogers is just as thrilled with the longstanding partnership, “We are happy that Stop & Shop has been working with us at a local level. They do a good job getting our produce out to their customers. It’s been a good partnership.”
Next time you see Rogers Orchards’ apples or pears on the selves of Stop & Shop, remember that they symbolize over three decades of partnership between a successful Southington farm and the local grocery stores.