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Williams Orchard opening under new owners

John and Robyn Drummond are stand before their orchard with children Charles and Adelaide.

An orchard which has its origins in post-Civil War area is again open for business in LaPorte County.

The new owners of Williams Orchard, John and Robyn Drummond of Chesterton, won’t be selling just fruit during their grand reopening on Aug. 31.

Hay rides, bounce houses and a petting zoo, along with a bar serving hard cider inside the original portion of the 1870s barn, will be among the first offerings at Williams Orchard in the rolling hills of northern LaPorte County near Hesson.  It's located at 9456 N. 500 East. 

"Williams Orchard had a real historic focus on apples and peaches. That was their business. We’re interested in creating a little more of an experience for those who visit the farm,’’ John Drummond said.

The 135-acre spread was owned by Ken Williams. He died last February at the age of 98.

His grandparents, Benjamin and Ester Williams, started the orchard after they were married following his service in the Civil War, according to historical information about the family.

Drummond said Williams' immediate family members, getting older and retired from other careers, were not interested in assuming the operation so the Drummonds bought the orchard.

The sale was finalized just last month.

Wanting a fall crop, though, the Drummonds were given permission to prune trees and do other work on the farm to help the dozen varieties of apples grow while the pending sale worked its way toward closing.

The Drummonds also learned all they could about growing fruit because they had no prior experience at raising crops.

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The Drummonds were looking to break into farming themselves in some fashion when Robyn discovered the orchard for sale online.

They quickly fell in love with the countryside and history of the orchard.

"t just felt like we were in the right place at the right time and it was just such an important part of the community that we really wanted to preserve,” she said.

John said the petting zoo will feature a Texas longhorn, miniature donkeys and goats.

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He said food trucks from Chicago will also be there on at least one of the weekends during the upcoming season lasting until about Halloween.

Future plans include offering the grounds to rent for weddings and other special events year-round and planting new trees that add to the variety of apples produced.

John Drummond still works in the commercial insurance business in Chicago.

His wife left her career in development and fundraising for the University of Chicago and Purdue University to focus strictly on the orchard and their children, ages 3 and four months.

The family splits its home life between Chesterton and the farm.

“Neither one of us has actually ever owned an orchard before so it’s been a big learning experience for us. It’s certainly been a lot of fun,’’ he said.

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