The 85-year-old Robinette said his 1971 decision to develop his orchard into a direct farm market that draws thousands of customers was “something we had to do.” The farm had been a wholesale fruit operation since it was bought by Jim’s grandfather in 1911. Back in the 1950s, he said, there were 12 orchards in his area northeast of Grand Rapids, and his family’s is the only one left. All of the others have succumbed to commercial development.
Where the one-room schoolhouse he attended stood is now a major highway less than a quarter-mile from Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery. His was one of the first places to have a cider press right on the farm. The cider led to doughnuts, a bakery, lunch counter, a gift shop, horse-drawn wagon rides, cross-country ski and mountain biking trails, and then a winery.
The award was presented by Jim’s son, Ed, who was there with his two brothers, John and Bill. All are involved in the business. “I should have suspected something when all three of my sons come to the same meeting,” Jim said in accepting the award.
The family property is 125 acres in size, surrounded by residential and commercial development, with no room for expansion. But there are plenty of customers nearby.