New Millennium at Musgrave

There is no run of the mill day for the Hamiltons. Andy Hamilton and his wife Amy work late nights and early mornings raising three children and operating the decades-old Musgrave Orchard, which they purchased 10 years ago just before it ceased production altogether. Since then, Andy said the family has operated on farm time, building their day around the needs of their 300 apple trees and 2 acre vegetable patch.

Photo: Beverly Linguai, of Bloomington, fills her CSA basket Sept. 4 at Musgrave Orchard. The summer season was Linguai’s third with the CSA. She said this is the only CSA she has participated in. Because of the quality of the food, she has had no reason to look into others. – Isaac Smith

Andy and Amy took over the 5 acre orchard as well as the old farm store; however, with this the Hamiltons also inherited a hefty reputation. Musgrave Orchard has historically been known for some of the best fresh cider in Southern Indiana and this legacy is something Andy said they have worked to preserve the past 10 years.

“Since we bought it we have been in preservation mode,” Andy said of their efforts to maintain the reputation of quality the Musgrave family built.

The cider house where they produce the community favorite has not changed much since the farm started nearly 80 years ago. Andy still uses the antique cider press the Musgraves counted on to produce their cider. Patched together with home-spun fixes, Andy said though he fights with it often, he always gets the press to start each time he needs make to cider, which is at least once a week and often multiple times a week as the season progresses. The nectar Andy bottles, he sells in their farm store as well as to Bloomingfoods.

The Musgrave farm store also operates much the way it did 80 years ago. The Hamiltons accept only cash and check, which Amy said slows the pace of the store. She said it is less fast-paced mega-mart and more old-world market.

“Sometimes there is a line from the register to the garage door. I don’t accept credit cards and it moves very slowly,” This is deliberate, Amy said. She explained she and Andy want to encourage fellowship and conversation in their store.

Andy and Amy homeschool their children and see value in raising them around their family business. Their first-born, 12-year-old Grace Hamilton, was three when they bought the orchard and said growing up around a farm has been an experience she would not trade.

“I do not think I would have it any other way.” Grace added she is exposed to a lot of foods most kids her age miss out on, which has inspired her future career path. “I hope to someday be a chef,” she said.

Photo - ApplesSort: Willa Hamilton, middle, watches her sister Grace, left, weigh apples as family friend Rowan Morse, right, marks bags Sept. 4 at Musgrave Orchard in Bloomington. – Isaac Smith

The orchard was not the only new project the Hamiltons took on in 2003. That year they also founded the Core Farms CSA. With several other farms in the area, the CSA provides seasonal, fresh produce to local families for both the summer and winter seasons.

Stefanie Voucher and her family have been members of the Core CSA for three seasons now and said they have explored new foods through the program.

“For us, it has broadened our pallets,”  she explained. She said they ate their way through many unfamiliar vegetables simply because they did not want to waste the food.

Douglas Guilick and his family have tried several other CSA’s in the area, but found many to be too business-minded. However, he said the Core CSA is the opposite with a strong focus of family and getting to know their patrons. This is a key reason Guilick has come back for the last three years. He said it is simply the people.

“We think Amy and Andy are the best” he said.

They may get high marks from customers and make the operation look easy, but the work is daunting. The family often has 16 hour days when the farm season is in full swing. However, despite the intense work schedule, Amy and Andy said they truly love what they do. Amy said even when she spends such long days at the farm store, she has a tough time leaving.

“I have the hardest time shutting the door,” she said.

AndyApples: Andy Hamilton pulls apples onto a conveyor belt Sept. 12 in the ciderhouse at Musgrave Orchard in Bloomington. The apples are cleaned as they move down the belt and are then ground and pressed, which releases their juice. Andy pressed and bottled 60 gallons of cider to be delivered to Bloomingfoods. -- Isaac Smith





Jugs: Cider jugs are filled Sept. 12 at Musgrave Orchard. -- Isaac Smith