Long gone are the days of the family farm for every family. The nostalgia-inducing way of life that was key and vital to the southern family at one point is now close to a thing of the past; less than 2% of America farms. When I was growing up, I lived behind my great-grandparents who were sharecroppers and farmers. My great-grandfather had everything from hogs to chickens to lots of dogs, and, of course, a very large garden. It was simply routine for us to go outside and pick anything from tomatoes to peaches and even watermelons. As a matter of fact, every family on our street had their own garden. Some families had more than others, and no two gardens were the same, but that was the way of life in the south for so many people back then. Times were simple, food was homegrown, and the family garden reigned supreme.
While a lot has changed since those days, luckily there are still those who continue on the great southern tradition of farming. One such family has sustained the family legacy for three generations on some of the most picturesque land imaginable. The Joneses have branched out to much more than farming and have truly established a family name for themselves that invokes feelings of southern tradition, national pride, and love of country life in those who know them.
Over six hundred acres gives way to thousands of beautiful peach trees, luscious tomato plants, bright strawberry vines, and many other delicious fruits and vegetables. The orchard is located just south of the Millington city line, between Highway 51 and Singleton Parkway and another orchard at the Agricenter in Memphis. Jones Orchard is home to a farmer’s market, a Country Kitchen, and several pick-your-own orchards. Customers from all over the Mid-South can be seen flooding the grounds of each pick-your-own orchard as well as crowding the Country Kitchen and farmer’s market during growing season.
To truly understand the pride of this family, you must understand the beginning of it all. Jones Orchard was founded in 1940 by the late H.L. Jones. Given the nickname “Peach Orchard,” or more commonly “Peaches,” Jones started his business selling peaches door to door and gained quite the good reputation for doing so. Jones Orchard has been run by the same family ever since then and it produces the original varieties that “Peaches” Jones sold in the beginning to this day. Eventually, Peaches’ son took over the family farm, beginning the family tradition of passing the farm down to the next generation.
Peaches’ grandson, Henry Jones, is the current king of the crop. “I enjoy carrying on the family tradition; our guests really keep it going,” he says. “We wouldn’t be in business without our customers.” Henry Jones is responsible for the farm’s diversification, as well as implementing all of the strawberry growing and all farmer’s markets. After working as a wholesale produce distributor as shipping manager in Nashville and product manager in telecommunications in Memphis, Henry moved back to help run the farm in 2006. “I’ve always liked small business, so I decided to come back to the farm,” Jones explained. “What’s really nice is that a lot of the experience I’ve had in Nashville and in Memphis really developed a good skill set for working here as far as putting a lot of variables into getting the product out on time...it’s really helped out...you really draw on those experiences a lot. It was kind of like being in the right place at the right time...being off of the farm really helped me to help run it.”
This family is not all business, however. They find it important to find enjoyment in what they do. The Jones Orchard hosts a myriad of seasonal activities during the fall season. For instance, the family farm has been host to a pumpkin patch and an antique tractor hayride for more than a decade. The hayride, named Hangman’s Hollow Haunted Hayride, takes visitors on an evening venture around the farm. There is also a towering corn maze that hosts Shadowlands Festival of Fear. Each year, the haunted maze is designed to resemble a seasonal character. During the 2016 season, the maze was created to look like spooky creatures. Every year, hundreds of visitors bravely take on the challenge of the maze. Ghouls, goblins, and monsters lurk amongst the towering corn stalks, awaiting their next victim. Folks from all over the Mid-South make the drive to the orchard to take part in the fall fun. “Each year, we do the haunted attractions. I really enjoy that!” exclaims Henry. “It’s all hands on deck working in the fall.”
The growth of Jones Orchard shows no sign of slowing down. When we inquired about what the future of Jones Orchard may entail, Jones excitedly said, “We just planted twenty additional acres of peaches so we’ve got a lot that are about to come in a few years...there’s just so much; we’re probably going to have to have more help...we’re more than likely going to have to increase in employees...so growth! We enjoy what we do...we enjoy getting our hands in the soil...it’s a great business.”