Jackson’s Orchard: Made For, and By, Family.

by | Sep 2023

IN THE winter of 1966, a quick conversation between Bill Jackson, a driven FMC Agricultural Chemicals salesman, and Ed Hudgens, the 89-year-old owner of an orchard, sparked an unexpected turn of events. 

“Instead of selling me chemicals,” Hudgens suggested, “why don’t you just buy this farm, ’cause I’m way past needing to retire.” 

By March, Bill and his wife, Shirley, were signing the papers to embark on a journey that would change their lives forever. Bowling Green’s own Jackson’s Orchard was born! 

Taking on the orchard was no easy task. Neglected land and mature trees posed significant challenges. Yet, with determination and vision, a tree-planting program was set in motion — one that continues to thrive today. 

“Farming is a very rewarding profession, but it is not an easy profession,” General Manager and daughter to Bill and Shirley Jackson, Cathy Otis, said. “We are dependent on the rain, temperatures, and other weather conditions.” 

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

Sitting high (at a 770-foot elevation) on 392 acres of farmland off Slim Island Road, approximately 10,000 trees produce apples, peaches, cherries, and more. Open from mid-April to November each year, the family’s multigeneration farm brings in thousands of visitors annually. 

“One of my favorite places in Bowling Green,” one of the many satisfied Google reviewers wrote. “Pies and slushes are delicious, and there are lots of goodies in the store area, along with plants and mums. The playground area is great for kiddos, and parents can sit under the shelter to eat their goodies and watch kids play. There is a petting zoo, hayrides, and all kinds of activities during the fall. Love, love, love this place.”

On the farm, Jackson’s offers popular seasonal dishes and American classics like hot dogs and barbecue at their concession stand, which is open from July through November. In the summer, they serve fried pies filled with their very own apples, peaches, and cherries; homemade peach ice cream; and apple cider slushies, an all-time favorite,” Otis said. Crowds come for caramel apples, hot apple cider, pumpkin muffins, and more in the fall. 

Jackson’s Orchard’s mission statement is to provide quality produce in a safe, family environment and to engage with the Bowling Green community. In September 2021, Fox News recognized Jackson’s Orchard as one of the Top 10 orchards to visit in the United States. 

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

“We host educational tours throughout the year,” Otis said. “One of our more popular workshops is the annual Pruning Conference held the first Saturday of March. It is open to the public at no charge, and Bill and Jonathan teach proper care of fruit trees. We also host 4-H clubs, Master Gardeners, HomeMakers, and, of course, our school tours.” 

In the fall, Jackson’s hosts several festivals where families can explore the pumpkin patch, take hayrides, visit the petting zoo, and pick apples. And every Labor Day weekend, the orchard hosts Apple Fest. 

“Parents love to take their kids out to pick their own pumpkins and apples and teach them that an apple isn’t from a grocery store — it actually grows on a tree, and this is how you pick them,” Otis said. 

Jackson’s Orchard & Nursery Inc. are members of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Proud Initiative, and the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Roadside Market Program. So there are many reasons families can feel good about bringing home Jackson’s Orchard products or produce. They puree their soft peaches to use in their ice cream. There are no preservatives and no sugar added to their cider. And for people concerned with additives and where their food comes from, there’s no better way to source it than from a local farmer. 

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

“If you know your local farmer, then most likely you can trust that they’re protecting our environment and growing a very safe product for your family to enjoy,” Otis said. 

Otis and her nephew, Jonathan Price, manage the day-to-day business at the orchard. And Bill and Shirley, after 56 years, are still active in daily operations. 

“It is not uncommon to see children, grandchildren, and extended family pitching in, especially on festival weekends,” Otis said. 

This year, Bill was even recognized as the Regional Apple Grower of the Year for his contributions to the apple industry in the region. 

“It’s just what we love to do,” Otis said. “That’s about it.” GN

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