HISTORY OF PATTERSON FRUIT FARM
Solomon Ferry and wife Mary Lyman Ferry were both early settlers of Chester Twp and farmed at the corner of Ferry and Mulberry Roads. This marriage brought a child Vandora who married Augustus Patterson in 1879. They continued the farming operation selling fruit, eggs and milk on a “route” in the eastern Cleveland area as did the previous generation. Augustus’ father George was a farmer in the Geauga (Lake) County area; his grandfather John a settler from New York.
Their son N.C. (and wife Mabel) Patterson brought changes to the farm by helping to found the East Cleveland Farmers’ Market located in the heart of an urban area of Cleveland. This market became an excellent venue for selling produce from the farm. N.C. planted more apple and peach trees and began reducing the general farming. He still raised poultry but ended the grain crops, hog and dairy operation. Maple syrup production was always a tradition and continues yet today.
N.C.and Mabel’s son Samuel (and wife Iona) returned following graduation from The Ohio State University to continue the farming operation. He focused completely on fruit, which was sold at a small roadside stand on the farm as well as through the Farmers’ Market. Some wholesaling of apples along with cider was sold through Cleveland grocery stores.
Samuel eventually purchased a tract of land on Caves Road which adjoined the original farmstead at the corner of Mulberry and Ferry Roads. This is where he moved his family in the ‘50’s and built a farm market, which became the centerpiece for sales of Patterson Fruit Farm produce. It was at this time that Sam incorporated a cold storage on this farm, storing and grading apples and related fruits there. The East Cleveland Farmers’ Market was still the popular place for city residents to purchase their fresh produce but this on-farm market also began to service a loyal following. Sam and Iona were one of the pioneers in the direct marketing of produce to the consumer (‘50’s). They made a conscious decision that, if they were to be successful in direct marketing they needed a permanent facility specifically built for that purpose and located on the farm itself. This was an intentional move forward from “peddling” produce on a city “route”, selling from a temporary “stand” (which might have been a card table) or farm barn, or depending on wholesaling.
This piece of land that Sam purchased sits high on a ridge typical of Geauga County. On a clear day, Lake Erie can be easily seen from that ridge while it is actually 19 miles away “as the crow flies”. The land is a combination of clay and glacial deposit which formed sandstone outcrops and ridges surrounding a valley from centuries past. Much of the purchased land lay vacant of crops. Taking the advice of friends, Sam began creation of a golf course which was laid out among the blocks of orchards. The closeness of location to an urban population as well as scenic beauty has proven this combination of fruit farming and golf course operation to be an excellent use of that land. Gradually the original orchards were sold off and others purchased further east. Some of the original land is still in the hands of ancestors of Solomon and Mary Ferry.
Sam and Iona’s son Jim (and wife Nancy) also returned home following graduation from OSU to farm, eventually, alongside brothers Tom and Jack (Tom and Jack’s focus was the golf course). In the late ‘70’s Jim added a pick your own operation as a, then, unique way to market apples. It was so successful that membership at the East Cleveland Farmers’ Market was discontinued. Selling their high-quality cider through wholesale to the area grocery chains continued to flourish but all other products were sold directly at the farm. Meanwhile folks from the city loved the trip out to Chesterland to get fresh-off-the-tree apples and peaches. The farm market on Caves Road was added to many times and became a very popular place to view the scenery, get away from the city and come home laden down with fresh produce.
Jim and Nancy purchased Uncle Ken (married to Sam’s sister Dorothea) Sperry’s farm just a mile or so east of Caves Road on Mulberry Road and moved there in 1969 with their young family. This became the site of a pick-your-own strawberry operation, a 7-week Family Fun Fest each fall, pick your own apples and hayrides for families and organizations who wished to enjoy a bonfire and picnic out in the scenic woods which outline a ridge that forms three sides of this farm.
Yet another generation joined the farming operation as Jim and Nancy’s sons David (in 1992) and Bill (1993) came back following their graduations from OSU. The operation has continued to grow as the 21st century arrived. The two locations enjoy a reputation as a fun destination for families to pick up quality fruit, spend a few hours “on the farm” with a generation of children who have no relationship with agriculture, thus little knowledge of how their food grows. Thousands of school children visit annually as the Patterson family seeks to “give back” in helping educate their neighbors and friends around the Cleveland area. The popular Patterson cider continues to be sold throughout Cleveland’s grocery stores; the Caves Road market blends a warm feeling of friendliness with the business of selling a variety of fruits, bakery and related products to customers; and families make their visits a part of their fall tradition. Maple syrup production has enjoyed a resurgence of interest and the Patterson sugarhouse draws folks who want to learn more about this “Geauga County” tradition.
Dave (and wife Pam, children Johnny and Heather) live on the Mulberry Road farm and Bill and children Sam and Jack) live close by the farm market on Caves Road. They are involved in proudly maintaining this busy farm in an ever urbanizing area. A third child of Jim and Nancy (Susan, married to Mike Swiger, with two children James and Audrey) lives across the street from the farm market. You will see them often as they walk across to the market to enjoy the hustle and bustle.
In 2007 the golf course was sold to the Geauga County Park District and in 2011 Orchard Hills Park was officially dedicated and has become a popular place for people to enjoy the beauty of the land and the view of Lake Erie from atop the hill (which is still owned by Patterson’s). Orchard Hills Center has become increasingly busy. The combination of the busy farm market and the park has been delightful to see come to fruition and has brought a huge sense of pride to the entire Patterson family.