Founded in 1889 by Henry Buell, Buell’s Orchard is now in its fourth generation and quickly headed into its fifth.
Henry’s great grandsons, Jeff and Jonathan Sandness now own and manage the 100 acres in Eastford, Connecticut. Jeff’s son, Greg, along with Jonathan’s son, Mark are working their way into the business as the fifth generation.
From apples to pumpkins to cider
Buell’s Orchard specializes in apple production. The family grows primarily semi-dwarf and dwarf trees, which produce fruit that are sold wholesale to several grocery stores, as well as to big chain warehouses.
Beyond apples the Sandness family also raises diversified crops including peaches, blueberries, strawberries, summer vegetables, greenhouse tomatoes, pumpkins and mums. While the majority of these fresh fruits and vegetables are sold via “pick-your-own,” Jeff’s wife Patty also runs a seasonal retail stand at the farm.
For nearly 40 years, Buell’s Orchard has been known its handmade apple cider and is now one of the largest cider producers in Connecticut. Buell’s recently built a new pasteurizing and bottling facility, where they can now press, pasteurize and bottle the cider right on the premises.
Farm Credit does more than make loans
The Sandness family became Farm Credit customers in 1980 when they built their first cider mill.
“It’s been a wonderful relationship,” said Patty. “Farm Credit understands 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, the Sandnesses started collaborating with Farm Credit East on their taxes, as well as financial planning. As the orchard’s bookkeeper, Patty has 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 are there to answer.”
“Farm Credit saved us quite a bit of money when they first started doing our taxes,” Patty said. “Carolyn stays up-to-date on the tax laws so that we don’t end up paying more than we should. The financial planning has been extremely helpful for our business.”