Hillside Orchard Farms Awarded Rabun County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year
Mar 29, 2016 11:10PM
● By Kevin
Photo courtesy of Hillside Orchard Farms.
Hillside Orchard Farms Wins Business of the Year 2016 [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Hillside Orchard Farms
While growing up in the rural areas of Georgia, farming and canning became a way of life for Robert and Patsy Mitcham. During high school, Robert was active in agriculture and Future Farmers of America. He helped run a canning plant at his school and later became an agriculture teacher and ran the canning plant for Rabun County.
A small jelly kitchen was built in the backyard of the Mitcham's North Georgia home in 1983. It all began with 10 products including; strawberry jam, apple butter and the bread and butter pickles made from that crop of cucumbers. From that small jelly kitchen, Hillside Orchard Farms has grown into a major company producing over 700 products that ship all over the United States, The Bahamas, Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, and Canada.
They specialize in private labeling of product, contract packaging, value added packaging, and all of their products are available wholesale. Hillside Orchard private labels 80% of the products sent out. They have a retail country store where you can buy products or you can visit the mail order store on the web. They make all of the products on site. The Country Store has everything from jellies to fritters. They have a wide range of souvenirs; cookbooks, local books, Lake Rabun merchandise, and plush toys. Gift baskets are made to order, so you can walk around and pick out all your favorites and they will arrange and even ship for you.
Patsy Mitcham said “I never dreamed it would be this big!” Robert Sr. keeps dreaming up new ideas for the farm and they keep adding. Three generations of the Mitcham family now run the operations of Hillside Orchard Farms. Robert Sr. and Patsy's daughter Kiley Mitcham Houston is in Sales, she oversees the store and does some of the book keeping. Her husband Michael Houston heads up the transportation and production division. Robert Mitcham Jr. is in charge of special projects. Their daughter, Karen, helps in the office.
Every year the corn maze has a theme. This year is the Tallulah Falls Railroad. Michael Houston cuts the corn and designs the maze on over three acres of land. Kids of all ages will enjoy searching the maze for the answers to trivia questions along the way. Once you have found all the answers, turn your card in for a special treat.
Little Mitcham's Gem Mine is open daily. At the entrance, there is a real mining car from the Tallulah Falls Railroad and the train tracts as well. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by an old miner. The mining is set up for the bigger kids, complete with a waterfall. They will mine for gems, fossils, and arrowheads. There is also a room set up for the smaller children. On the way out, there is a room with assorted rocks and stones.
At the demonstration building, you can watch all the pies and fritters being made. The loft and pavilion are available to rent out for birthday parties or wedding receptions. The pavilion has several picnic tables and is located next to a giant sandbox, a playground with swings, and a wooden train for the kids to play on. They have a hayride that will take you to see the animals and around the property. Over 300 kids have already scheduled field-trips times to Hillside Orchard Farms this year.
New to the farm is The ol' #3. This train runs on the weekends and special days and takes you on a tour of the grounds. Robert Jr's daughter, Jennifer, is one the train engineers. Jennifer took us for a ride on the train. Along the way, there is a black smith shop and a sawmill. We passed by the animals on the farm. There are horses, cows, pigs, pygmy goats, ducks, geese, rabbits, chickens, miniature ponies, and donkeys. When talking about the animals, Festus, one of the Jerusalem donkey's, has to be mentioned. Festus has a following. Always ready for the camera, he was posing, laying down and looking back over his shoulder. Another sure to be favorite, is Sweetpea. Jennifer bottle fed this little pygmy goat. She rides in trucks, visits the kids of the Creative Learning Center, and has so much personality. Ol' #3 took us passed the u-pick blackberry fields (available is July) and the production rooms for the honey. Kiley told us that the honey was down this year because of all the afternoon showers, bees don't fly in the rain. The train's caboose is wheelchair accessible.
The farm is 100 acres, half of that is workable. Patsy and Robert Sr. began purchasing the land in the 1960's and have added on over the years. All of the by products are reused and recycled, turned into compost, top soil, feed, or ethanol. A lot has changed over the years, but the Mitcham's still hold on to the values and the quality that got them started. They run a fully modern, fully licensed, FDA and The Georgia Department of Agriculture regulated plant. But, with one taste, you will agree that the homemade goodness is still in there.
There is so much to see and do at Hillside Orchard Farms. It is fun for the whole family. You can visit them at 18 Sorghum Mill Drive, Lakemont Georgia, visit them on the web at www.hillsideorchard.com, or call them at 706.782.4995 or toll free at 1.866.782.4995.
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