Century farm in Bedford County from early beginnings to agrotourism

Digital Originals

BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — Johnson’s Orchard has a long history in Bedford County.

The Johnson’s family settled at the Peaks of Otter in the early 1700s. The farm held the largest apple orchard in both Bedford and Botetourt counties which is nestled between Flat-top and Sharp-top mountain, which is still standing today.

“I’ve got somewhere around five great granddads up there, that have lived up there, maybe six I’m not sure. But anyhow, they settled up there. At that time there was a big apple orchard up there, we’ve always been involved in apples.”

Danny Johnson – Owner / Operator – Johnson’s Orchard

Much later, Danny Johnson’s father and grandfather moved their apple orchard a few miles away down the mountain.

“They bought this farm in 1918 and started planting apples on it in 1919. We were commercial growers. We planted, we packed and shipped all over the world, really.”

Danny Johnson – Owner / Operator – Johnson’s Orchard

Over the years, through the 1970s and 1980s, the demand from chain stores got too heavy by wanting more variety of fruit. Johnson’s Orchard decided to not compete with them and decided to just grow apple and sell to other packing companies.

“We were going to have to have a million and a half bushels of apples to be able to compete for the chain store business out there, and we didn’t have the acreage that plant that amounts out. I didn’t want to go into buying apples so what we decided that we were going to quit packing apples and just grow apples.”

Danny Johnson – Owner / Operator – Johnson’s Orchard

When COVID-19 first hit our area, like many businesses, Johnson’s Orchard shut down.

“Well, when COVID hit we closed down. We had to close down. Basically, we couldn’t do anything. We closed down [and] furloughed everybody. We’ve learned a whole lot of things this year. [We] spread all of our picnic tables out where people could sit and be socially distanced. Instead of doing tastings, we did flights.”

Danny Johnson – Owner / Operator – Johnson’s Orchard

They also decided to not attend any festivals they usually go to each year and canceled two of the festivals they host, the Horse and Hound Festival and Long Strange Night.

“I don’t know that we’ll go to any festivals next year or not. It’s bad and I’ve lost several friends from it and I just don’t want to send people out there.”

Danny Johnson – Owner / Operator – Johnson’s Orchard

He says the community really showed respect for the farm and the COVID restrictions that needed to take place.

“Every single week, we have changed [by going] from one line to two lines and just trying to get it where we can spread people out the best we possibly can. We require a mask in our buildings here and people have been excellent and listening to what we want done on our farm.”

Danny Johnson – Owner / Operator – Johnson’s Orchard

For more information on Johnson’s Family Orchard, visit the orchard’s Facebook page or website.

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