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October 22, 2018 Family Business Awards 2018

Over 200 years, Lyman Orchards became a destination for golf, pies and fruit picking

Photo | Contributed Lyman Orchards is one of HBJ's 2018 Family Business Awards winners. Pictured are three generations of the Lyman family: Adam Lyman, John Lyman III and the late Jack Lyman.
The two Lyman family members working in the business today are John Lyman III (left) and his cousin Luke Patterson. (Top right) Members of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th generations celebrating Lyman’s 275th anniversary in 2016. (Bottom) Three generations of Lymans: John Lyman III, his father, Jack Lyman, and his grandfather, John Lyman Sr.

1st Place — 25 to 75 full-time employees category

The Lyman Farm Inc. (Lyman Orchards)

Headquarters: Middlefield

Industry: Agritourism, golf, food service

Year Founded: 1741

Founder: John & Hope Lyman

Generation Currently Running Company: 8th

No. of Full-Time Employees: 31

No. of Part-Time Employees: 175

Family Members Currently Employed at Company: John Lyman III, Executive Vice President; Luke Patterson, IT Administrator, cousin to John Lyman.

Company Website:

You don't have to own the place just to enjoy the views and tranquility at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield.

Take it from Middlefield native Aaron Jones, 26, produce manager at the farm's Apple Barrel retail store.

Jones grew up a mile down the road from the 1,100-acre homestead, established in the 18th century. He is a graduate of local Coginchaug High School and Southern Connecticut State University. The orchards have always been part of his life, now even moreso.

He gets out of the store now and then to inspect and maintain about 47,000 apple trees bearing 28 varieties of apples. Of course, there are other fruit trees and berries and flowers. These crops include 24 varieties of peaches and nectarines, eight varieties of pears, including Asian pears, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, jostaberries, squash, squash flowers and pumpkins.

The orchards' rolling hills overlook the town of about 13 square miles with fewer than 5,000 people.

“My favorite view,” Jones said, “is on top of Powder Hill Road looking out over all of Middlefield. I feel relaxed and very peaceful.”

Besides opening the fields for picking by customers, Lyman Orchards produces about 900,000 pies and tarts for retail and wholesale consumption annually. Inside the store, pies are made from scratch by a highly focused crew in a small space. It's part of a comprehensive diversification of the farm that now includes golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones and Gary Player and corn and sunflower mazes. Last September and October, the Apple Barrel also sold 90,000 doughnuts and 360,000 doughnut holes.

“The volume is insane,” said Joanna Bascom, 28, retail-baking supervisor and food-safety administrator.

The pie crew literally is working overtime several hours a day to produce upwards of 5,000 pies daily during busy season, according to Bascom, who studied fine arts and graphics, graduating from Middlesex Community College while working at the orchards.

“It's fun for me,” said Bascom, “to pack up thousands of packages of doughnut holes and pies and see them go out the door. I check the sales all day. It's amazing. You can't even walk in that store, sometimes it gets so busy.”

John Lyman III, 61, executive vice president of Lyman Orchards, is one of about 200 family shareowners. He credits his father, John “Jack” Lyman Jr., with the vision to adapt and diversify. Jack Lyman died earlier this year at age 91.

“His whole point was to be creative with open space,” Lyman said. “We decided 25 years ago to market ourselves as a destination.”

The Lyman Homestead was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986.

Now, they also host corporate meetings and events, weddings and various small gatherings.

Guernsey cows, known for their high protein and fat content, no longer graze Lyman Orchards. That's among the big changes over the years at what is recognized as the 12th-oldest family owned business in the United States, according to Tim Burt, director of marketing and retail operations.

“Guernseys were popular before the health-consciousness trend,” John Lyman III said.

On par

Lyman tells the story of how networks of family and friends led to the establishment of 45 holes of golf at the homestead. The family was approached by a group of Middletown businessmen to start a golf club, but they couldn't raise the money.

A family member had a contact with the renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr., which eventually led to the proposal of a nine-hole course.

“When the banker heard of Jones' involvement, he said, 'count me in,' “ Lyman said. “Jack initially felt it was the worst decision he ever made. It cost double the budget. No one was showing up.

“It took more than five years to catch on. Golf caught fire in the 70s, 80s. Palmer, Nicklaus. We caught that wave.”

Today, Lyman Orchards features 45 holes of golf. The Jones course opened in 1969. The Player Course opened in 1994 and The Golf Center — a teaching facility — and Apple Nine course opened in 2012. The Golf Center instructional team will teach over 400 women how to play the game this year and nearly 80,000 rounds of golf will be played in 2018 at the various courses, according to Burt.

The operational theme is now “Agritainment,” Lyman said.

Kourtney Davis of Guilford has been bringing her young children to the orchards for five years.

“I like to take the kids, and they and my husband like the doughnuts especially,” Davis said. “[The children] like the little fairs and festivals.”

She noted her father golfs at the orchards, where the family also enjoys the mazes.

Lyman Orchards donates $1 for each visit to the sunflower maze and corn mazes. Over the years, more than $100,000 has gone to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center and they are approaching $600,000 in donations to the American Cancer Society, Burt said.

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