Founded in 1889 by Henry Buell, Buell’s Orchard is now in its fourth generation, and quickly
headed into its fifth. The 100 acres in Eastford, Conn., are today owned and managed by Henry’s great grandsons, Jeff and Jonathan Sandness. On the rise are Jeff and his wife Patty’s son, Greg,along with Jonathan’s son, Mark, who are working their way into the business as the fifth generation.
Buell’s Orchard’s main crop is apples. The family grows mostly semi-dwarf and dwarf trees. The bulk of the apples are sold wholesale to several grocery stores and big chain warehouses.
The Sandness family also reserves some acres for diversified products, such as peaches, blueberries, strawberries, summer vegetables, greenhouse tomatoes, pumpkins and mums. Much of these fresh fruits and vegetables are sold pick-your-own, and Patty also runs a seasonal retail stand at the farm.
Buell’s Orchard has also been known for producing its own apple cider for nearly 40 years, and is now one of the largest cider producers in Connecticut. Last spring, Buell’s got their new pasteurizing and bottling facility up and running, so they can now press, pasteurize and bottle the cider right on premises.
The Sandness family first got started with Farm Credit in 1980 when they built their first cider mill. “It’s been a wonderful relationship,” said Patty.“ They understand farming much more than a regular bank. When you have poor years they work with you. They don’t just say, ‘this is the agreement we had, so this is the payment we want.’ They’re very understanding.
”In 2010, they began having Farm Credit East do their taxes and work with them on financial planning. Patty does the bookkeeping for the orchard, so she’s developed a close relationship with her Farm Credit East representatives, Carolyn Huff and Jacob Raleigh.“ Carolyn and Jacob are great to work with,” said Patty. “Any questions I have, they’re there to answer.”
“They saved us quite a bit of money when they first started doing our taxes,” continued Patty. “Carolyn stays up-to-date on the tax laws, so that we don’t end up paying in more money than we should. The financial planning has been extremely helpful for our business.”