Gentleman Farmer Seeking Buyer To Carry On At Blue Jay Orchards
BETHEL — Paul Patterson has always had the heart and soul of a farmer, and now he is ready to share all the success he has enjoyed and friendships he has made at Blue Jay Orchards over the past 35 years with a new owner.
The gentleman farmer in every sense of the term recently contracted with Danbury’s Ryer Associates and C.J. “Charlie” Vlahos of Blanket Real Estate to co-market the sprawling orchard property, with its farm store and multiple residential and commercial outbuildings.
A new owner would be encouraged to retain second-generation orchard foreman Chris Seifert, and could also benefit from keeping Mr Patterson and his wife, Mary, on site if desired.
“A place to live and $10 an hour and the new owner can keep me,” Mr Patterson said, laughing as he concluded an interview and brief look-around with The Newtown Bee one recent sunny afternoon.
“Whoever takes over will also need Chris,” he added. “His presence allowed me to have other financial interests.”
The self-sustaining “pick your own” operation in the northeastern corner of Bethel is listed for $4.75 million, according to Broker Jeff Ryer, and provides 122-plus acres containing more than 8,000 fruit trees bearing more than 20 varieties of apples. The new owner would also take on a turnkey farm market with a kitchen and storage, a 2,400-square-foot walk-in cooler, two single-family homes, a third residence with a separate apartment, two added apartments, and an office, along with inventory and equipment.
Mr Patterson said aside from the hundreds of local clients who patronize the farm and seasonal retail store annually, he has made the acquaintance of thousands of others of varying ages among nearly 100,000 school children who have toured the farm under his watchful eye. He also draws visitors from around the globe and sees a significant level of traffic from the metro-New York City area and northern New Jersey.
For the motivated and jovial owner, the most important driver for anyone looking to relocate or begin a farming career by investing in the acquisition of Blue Jay Orchards should be a desire to return to the land for the pure enjoyment of it.
“It’s fun,” Mr Patterson said flashing a broad smile. “Some may think it’s too much work, and obviously that’s not the type of buyer this would appeal to. But we’ve got good soil here, fresh air, robust aquifers with good water for growing fruits and vegetables, and acres of dwarf apple trees low enough for even little kids to climb.”
A True Family Farm
The location should also attract its new owner for one of the reasons it was such a find for the Pattersons. “It’s a wonderful place to raise a family,” he said, describing the property as a thread in the quiltwork of American family farms.
There is even a life-size wall fixture portraying cutouts of the Pattersons’ adult children, Mary, Margaret or “Marge,” longtime Blue Jay retail manager Beth, Steve, Paul, and his late daughter, Jeanie.
Walking from his homey office toward the partially stocked farm store, Mr Patterson stops to identify the farm on a huge aerial map, pointing to where the property extends far north and south from the retail and residential hub at 129 Plumtrees Road.
He made note of a 15-to-20-acre parcel that has remained open if the new owner would like to reactivate a part of the business the Pattersons stopped years ago — providing pick your own berries.
And while he has no interest in the pursuit, Mr Patterson admitted it might be a future location for someone interested in getting into growing industrial hemp.
Mr Patterson said he and his wife fell in love with the Bethel neighborhood after residing in neighboring Wilton for a time, and were eager to settle at the orchards after he retired from a federal job. Around the same time, he also purchased a modest rubber seal manufacturing facility in neighboring Danbury, which he eventually turned over to his son, Paul.
While he was away from agriculture for a long time, Mr Patterson said the opportunity brought him back to his childhood in northern Ohio where he started picking tomatoes on a local family farm as an adolescent. Mr Patterson was pleased to learn that Blue Jay Orchards would be protected by development rights that previous owner Robert Josephy sold to the state.
Apples To Donuts
Upon taking over the farm, Mr Patterson said he spent 10 years taking down the full-sized apple trees growing there and shifting to dwarf apple trees to enhance the pick-your-own experience for every visitor. That operation is still thriving, with the operation opening to the public the last week of every August, and remaining open until just before Christmas.
The orchards also continue to provide product to local stores, including the Caraluzzi’s chain and Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan, reinforcing a main motivator for Mr Patterson — a place where he could grow and provide good food to families with a direct farm-to-table connection. But he also sees other untapped opportunities.
“If I was 50 or 60 years old, I’d go to work making this an agritourist destination, and probably open this up as a venue for events like weddings,” he said. “We could also raise animals here, it’s a place where a new owner could begin manufacturing hard cider, and we’re permitted to process as much as 75,000 gallons of craft brewed beer every year.”
Any one or combination of those activities would only help to make Blue Jay Orchards an even stronger regional economic driver.
“We get so many people visiting from other places, especially Manhattan and the New York and New Jersey markets,” he said. “And many of them need to fill up on gas, or they venture into Bethel or Newtown to go to restaurants, or to visit Hollandia [Garden Center] or Ferris Acres Creamery. Some even make their visit here part of a weekend getaway, so there’s potential for lodging business as well.”
While prospects continue to visit the orchards, Mr Patterson said he is already beginning to look forward to opening up this August, and enjoying his first famous apple cider donuts. The market / farm stand’s bakery makes the many fruit pies, apple crisps, loaf cakes, and other items available to visitors along with apple picking, hay wagon rides, and, later on, the annual pumpkin harvest.
“If it’s run right,” Mr Patterson concluded, “Blue Jay Orchards will provide someone a wonderful home, a place to make many lifelong friendships, and a good opportunity to make a living.”
For more information, contact Jeff Ryer at 203-797-0200, extension 103. Learn more about the farm at bluejayorchardsct.com.