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Apples and pumpkins are helping a family business in Swanton continue to grow

Johnston Fruit Farms was started in 1954, and third generation family members now work there.
Johnston Fruit Farms has been part of the Swanton landscape since 1954
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:41 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It’s “ap-kin” season in our neck of the woods. What’s that? It’s a word we came up with to describe the time of year when apples and pumpkins are everywhere.

Johnston Fruit Farms has been part of the Swanton community for more than 65 years. While apples are the biggest crop, pumpkins have helped grow the business in recent years as well.

Martha Mora’s roots on this land run deep. Her parents planted the seeds that grew into the family business. “As the years go on, it’s important to me to help continue other people’s legacies and traditions of coming here and being part of our farm. Producing local, sustainable food has also become very important to me.”

Dozens of apple varieties are grown and sold here. Some dating back hundreds of years. Martha has some great advice when it comes to picking a favorite apple. “My favorite apple is the one that is at its peak at that moment, so I have a lot of favorites. It’s fun to taste your way through the season.”

Martha says they have about 80-acres of apple trees. They start picking them in august and finish around the first of November. “Just wandering around the orchard and seeing all the apples come to fruition is neat. It’s a really cool time of year. We are 100% retail, so we truly depend on our customers. We appreciate the decades of support from the community. We hope people will come see us through December.”

The third generation of the family is now part of the business. Martha’s daughter Erica Ritt got a degree in botany but came back to the farm full time. “I thought I wanted to go into research but I found that I like to work with my hands and be active, so that is what drew me back here. It’s something different every day, and I love it.”

Erica says the farm it’s about more than making sales, it’s about helping preserve history. “You want to know where your food is coming from and how it was developed, or even in what year. To bring the food and history together is really cool I think. "

Martha says the history here now involves all kinds of pumpkins too. “In the last 10-15 years we have also really gotten into pumpkins. We grow quite a few varieties from the tall ones to the short ones. We have white, pink‚ purple, and multi-colored ones. It’s fun to watch people pick out the pumpkin that suits their personality the best.”

The goal of the family is to share their love and knowledge of everything grown here with customers, in turn helping ensure this farm is here for generations to come.

“We grow over 80 varieties of apples here. I love to go into the store and help people find something they couldn’t find elsewhere.”

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