Foundation & First Generation
In 1917, in Geneva, NY, the Brownlee family planted some of the same orchards that Red Jacket uses today. In the words of Fred Brownlee, "the land is fertile, the wind movement is good and prevents damaging frosts from hurting fruits." In 1958, Joe & Emily Nicholson owners of Nicholson's Poultry Farm in Bethpage, NY were forced to move their establishment to make way for an expressway. They then purchased Red Jacket Fruit Farms, located only 350 miles to their northwest, on land well known for its fruit production. They set up an improvised one-windowed shed to display their cornucopia of harvested fruits to passersby. They offered grapes, pears, raspberries, strawberries, and, of course, apples. This became the site of the original Red Jacket roadside stand. In 1968, Joe Nicholson, Sr. bought an old rack & cloth press and began to press cider in the barn. In 1972, with a two-year-old and a pair of two-week-old twins in tow, Joe Jr. and Marilyn Nicholson moved to the farm after pursuing careers elsewhere. In the ensuing years, they expanded into wholesale farm markets and expanded their retail location. In 1980, the present-day Red Jacket fruit outlet is built offering many more fruits and local farm goodies.
Expansion & Experimentation
In 1992, Red Jacket Orchards made its first trip to New York City to sell fruit at NYC Greenmarkets! The first trip is fraught with challenges; we lock the keys in the truck in New Jersey, and nearly crash in the Lincoln Tunnel! Somehow, we make it in time to our prized location in Union Square, and the trip was a success! Later that same year, JJ Nicholson moved to New York City and establishes Red Jacket Orchards as a weekly greenmarket vendor. In 1993, using the same rack & cloth technique Joe Sr. used to create their delicious ciders, we began to experiment with different fruit blends. To create flavors, we focused on the more popular fruits we grew on their farm and blended them with our apple juice. The first official line of Red Jacket Juice consists of Raspberry Apple, Apple Cider, Fuji Apple, and Cranberry Apple.
Third Generation & Joe's Summer Blend
According to legend, on a hot summer day Joe Nicholson Jr. squeezed some lemons into some Fuji juice. The resulting blend was so refreshing and flavorful that Red Jacket Orchards decided to create a summer blend using these simple ingredients! Meanwhile, the 3rd Nicholson generation transitioned into a key role on the family farm, with Brian Nicholson joining the team and Mark Nicholson returning full-time five years later. On the farm, the orchard expansion moves Red Jacket closer to the lake, with sensitive but highly prized summer fruits like apricots. The focus shifts to enhancing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and experimenting with organic crops, like greenhouse raspberries, blueberries, and a special "high tunnel" experiment (sponsored by Whole Foods). At peak season today, Red Jacket Orchards sells at over 25 markets per week, which operates out of a warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Today, much of Red Jacket Orchard's connection to the world's greatest food market is based on our Greenmarket operations.
Environmental & Organic Initiatives
Red Jacket Juice had a record crop year and Zagat NYC Marketplace Guide declares Red Jacket Juices "Best On The Planet." In 2009, Red Jacket built its new LEED certified juice facility & distribution center for quality verification and safety, and continues to grow. Red Jacket Juice can be found up and down the East Coast. In April 2012, Red Jacket Orchards began new organic initiatives. In the words of VP of Farm Operations, Mike Biltonen: "In large part due to our location, we're able to produce the best tasting, most sustainably grown fruit around. Red Jacket Orchards is testing potential organic methodology for our apples, blueberries, and in a limited way, for our stone fruit crops, as well. And in the next few years you may see us rolling out USDA Certified Organic stone fruit crops. In the meantime, we're always doing to our best to improve how we control pests by cooperating with Cornell University and utilizing the most advanced techniques available to us, each and every day."
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