An old Lebanon orchard is following the farm-to-table trend in a new, hands-on way.
“Everyone has a Hidden Valley story,” said Hidden Valley Orchard owner Robyn Lane.
Lane and her husband Randy purchased the 65-acre orchard that used to be Hidden Valley Farms in January and opened for business in May, but the farm has been offering fruits and vegetables for more than 60 years.
The Lane family also runs American Thermal Instruments, a business that focuses on thermal monitoring solutions and is important to the quality of produce at Hidden Valley Orchards. Robyn Lane said the produce displays are very deliberate, with only a small amount of inventory hitting shelves at once so the farm can monitor produce temperatures ensuring the fruits and vegetables are at their best when sold.
Along with the apples, potatoes, tomatoes, gourds and other produce, Hidden Valley Orchards offers locally manufactured jams, soaps, Amish butter, craft sodas and more in the barn. Rather than buy in the market, customers can choose to pick blueberries, strawberries and apples from the Lane’s patches and orchards during select harvest seasons through the U-PICK program. The orchard also has enough bees to pollinate all the crops on the property.
In addition to the produce, Hidden Valley now offers lunch made from farm produce from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The menu usually offers two to three sandwiches ranging from a Reuben to a barbecue pork wrap, two to three farm-fresh salads and a choice of fresh sides, which all depend on what is coming out of the farm at any given time. Locally roasted coffee starts at 7 a.m. along with daily fresh-baked goods.
“It’s a very affordable, nice little lunch menu, so parents, families, mothers, grandparents can come play in the barnyard,” said Kacey Shaw, Hidden Valley’s event and operations director.
The company employs 12 to 15 full-time seasonal workers, but in all, more than 50 people are employed by the farm, including beekeepers, farm hands and area high school students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to find jobs amid other extracurricular activities, Lane said. Some work as few as three hours a month.
“My husband and I have been very involved in the community,” Lane said. “We just wanted a place where people could come and connect.
Since buying the business at 5474 North State Route 48, the Lanes have opened the space to expose the original wooden beams, windows and fireplace of the property’s main barn, which Lane said is the best feature of the entire property. The Lanes veered from an antique focus to a “refined rustic” feel with decorations made from old items found around the farm including a display cart made from a trailer found in a field, a wheel turned into a hanging light and signs found leaning against a wall hung as a picture backdrop.
They have also expanded the parking lot, fenced in a large play area and created sitting and eating spaces within the market.
“They’ve done a huge, not renovation, but rejuvenation,” Shaw said.
One of the orchard’s most popular events is its Wednesday Tot Orchard outing, where families can feed the farm’s 18 goats, ride a small farm-type train and play on the playground and inflatables.
“We know that summers are long and our caregivers need a break from the norm, so we open up for a couple hours to get the wiggles and giggles out,” Shaw said.
Two and a half-year-old Benjamin saves “goat money” every week for his Wednesday trip to Hidden Valley Orchards. He trades his quarters for a handful of feed from a gumball machine.
“My favorite part as a parent is seeing him interact with the goats and make a tradition of it every week,” Benjamin’s mother Kristine Farrell of Springboro said.
Farrell, Benjamin and 1-year-old Ava have gone to Hidden Valley every week since it first started the outing five weeks ago.
“My son loves the goats and I love that it’s local,” Farrell said. “We have a routine. We sit on a bench and eat a doughnut.”
Shaw said she’s looking forward to autumn, when Hidden Valley Orchards will start harvesting apples, making home-pressed cider, offering hay rides and chucking pumpkins through a large slingshot or catapult. The orchard will also look to bring new animals into the family this fall.
Hidden Valley Orchards will stay open through the end of the year to supply Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas hams, holiday pies and Cider with Santa. They will evaluate a closing and opening date for winter months at the beginning of January.
“It’s been a really steady start,” Shaw said. “I think people are excited about what’s going on here and we do see people coming back again and again.”
In the future, the Lanes and Shaw hope to get into large events like weddings, baby showers, retirement parties and corporate outings. They transformed an old long barn into a wedding space with a serving area, and are working to install a waterfall from one of the farm’s ponds to another for a wedding and vow renewal backdrop.
“It’s really more than I ever expected it to be,” Lane said.
The orchard is open Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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