Rich and I had visited Echo Hill each Fall since we began dating in 1987. Rich had always had a childhood dream of owning his own farm. One day on a drive home from our small town grocery store Rich saw an opportunity to pursue that dream when he drove past Echo Hill and saw a large sign advertising the farm for sale for commercial development. Although it had been for sale at least 5 years by then, it was the first Rich had known of it being offered for sale.
Rich’s interest in this particular farm piqued during a visit to Echo Hill one warm, Fall afternoon to pick our own apples, along with our young daughters, Samantha and Ashley. He asked us, “Wouldn’t you just love to own this place?”. I responded “No.. don’t even think about it!”. At the time being 8 months pregnant with our third child didn’t help my mind set. But the wheels were already set in motion as far as Rich was concerned.
At that same time we owned and operated Four Seasons package store in Hadley, MA (a 45 minute commute each day, sometimes with the two small girls in tow). While we both desired to work closer to home, and as much as I loved the tractor rides and apple picking experience with my family, at that moment all I saw was an enormous challenge and commitment that I felt I was not up to. In spite of my initial hesitation Rich eventually persuaded me it was going to be a great place for our children to grow up and a memorable experience they would cherish for a lifetime. I also thought back to growing up in Hampden, witnessing several houses popping up on our road. Seeing the loss of woodlands and open space I was so used to enjoying on walks had an impact on me, whether or not I realized it at the time. When I first saw that same commercial development sign I noticeably felt my heart sink as I thought, “Not this place too”.
I do believe with all my heart and soul now that God called us to this farm.
Our son Greg was born in October 1996, a month after the afternoon of apple picking when Rich asked me that fateful question. Greg was only 18 months old when we made the move to Echo Hill Orchards to live. Soon to follow was Christopher, born in May of 1999, then Mia, born in September of 2001. Along with our extended families and many friends throughout the years, all five of our children have worked very hard on this farm and contributed to a huge part of our success, Currently, our son Chris is responsible for pruning and most of the maintenance on the farm as well as helping Rich produce the wines for the past two years which makes it easier for both Rich and I to enjoy our present time operating this farm.
Throughout that time, we have remodeled the building to accommodate our changing business and included a space for our family to live comfortably..by trial and error we have tried many different ventures during our ownership of Echo Hill..some for a year or two, others for more than a decade and still others going strong to this day including our country style gift shop, Echo Hill hand poured candles, seasonal pick your own apples and pumpkins, along with scenic tractor rides on weekends in the Fall and our own line of wines produced here at Echo hill Orchards and Winery.
Rich thought we needed to begin diversifying and offering more than PYO on our farm back in our early years of ownership and read up on wine making. He applied for a farm winery license and using the fruit we already grew at Echo Hill Orchards, he made his first wine in 2005 using Macoun apples, followed by Cranberries and Apples wine using fresh Cape Cod cranberries blended with our Empire apples. Depending on the recipe, Rich uses a variety of different fruits in his wines including pumpkins, raspberries, pears, peaches, plums and of course apples, all grown at Echo Hill. Making and selling our own wine directly to our customers has positively changed our business and by request from many of our customers, we began offering tastings of our wine products the same year. Presently we offer more than a dozen varieties of wines, as well as moonshines and ports, and we are looking forward to producing other types of beverages made with our produce in the future.
Both Rich and I feel we have fulfilled our dream of giving our children a unique and memorable childhood experience of living and working on this farm as well as instilling in them a strong work ethic for their own aspirations.
We consider ourselves and the farm a work in progress….we strive to maintain the orchard and business with the hope of making it better each year that we are blessed to operate it.
After many years spent working and enjoying this farm and opening it up to the public during the Fall season, our children are becoming more involved in Echo Hill Orchards business and one day hope to be running it themselves, possibly implementing their own great ideas.
We wish to welcome new customers to our farm each year as well as thank all the people that have supported our business over the past several years, we couldn’t have done this without you!
Rich and Terry Krupczak