To say Monnin’s Fruit Farm’s customers are ready to shop would be an understatement.
The family-owned business at 8201 Frederick Pike near Vandalia has been fielding calls from customers about opening day for weeks.
The wait will end on Saturday, April 13, when the farm opens for its 58th season.
That’s when Nick and Glenn Monnin plan to open the business their parents — Phyllis and Roger Monnin —
bought in 1961 after the previous owner Russell Stoner wanted to move to New York.
“Dad said ‘guess what, we just bought a farm’,” Glenn Monnin said. “She said ‘you did what?’ ”
Though some fussed about it, the couple’s two sons and five daughters were the built-in “cheap labor” when the farm opened.
Nick and Glenn said they and their sisters — there is a 10-year difference between the oldest Monnin sibling and the youngest — learned to drive in the 1948 John Deere tractor now in the front of farm’s store, Monnin’s Market.
These days, a list of about 30 Monnin relatives — siblings, cousins, grandkids, nieces and nephews — keep the 45-acre farm going strong under Nick and Glenn’s leadership.
Their mom is in her 80s and still is involved in the business.
Their father, a Delco Products worker when he bought the farm, died at age 84 on March 22, 2014.
Roger wanted his children to keep the farm going, Nick said.
“He was always teaching us. He was always showing us,” he said. “If he could only see it now. We are getting better and better.”
The Monnin brothers say their customers want products grown as close to home as possible, though there are far fewer local supplies.
“They want Tennessee tomatoes,” Nick said. “They are sick of getting produce from Mexico and South America.”
Consumer shopping habits have changed dramatically in the years since the farm opened, Glenn said.
“It was rough for Dad. He had to get winter jobs. Sometimes he had to sell off some acres,” Glenn said. “There were so many days we had fried bologna.”
Back then, people bought fruits and vegetables in bushels for canning.
The work is still not easy — running such an operation requires work even through the cold months — but profits are better these days because most people seek out local and organic food in smaller quantities.
“Now people come in for tonight’s meal,” Nick said. “They want to know where their food comes from.”
>> Photos: Monnin Fruit Farm through the years
When things are humming, Glenn says the orchard looks like a park with family sitting on blankets.
“People love it,” Glenn said.
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When it opens this Saturday, Monnin’s Market will be stocked with meat from Winter’s Farm in Osgood, hanging baskets and Amish made ice cream, jams, jellies and baked goods.
There will also be a selection of fruits and vegetables grown by Amish farmers, but the variety will increase as the growing season goes on.
The shop will be open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until strawberry picking season when the hours will be increased to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The pick-your-own farms strawberries will be ready in late May or early June.
They will be followed by the raspberries between June and July.
The Concord grapes — a popular item for local wineries —should be ready between mid-September to October.
The apple and 480 peach trees are starting to bud now, but are still months away from being ready this summer.
Nick Monnin said he could probably make more working in a plant than on the farm, but he loves the peacefulness of working on the farm.
He gets up at 6 a.m., gets his coffee and sometimes spots fox and deer while getting to work on his tractor.
“We love serving the customer,” Nick said. “We have a great customer base.”
The brothers said many out-of-town customers use their vacation days to visit the farm. Family visits the farm to expose their children to how nature works.
“They love the experience of bringing their kids out to pick,” Nick said. “This is the first time (some kids) have ever picked an apple.”