The Michigan State Horticultural Society gave its distinguished service award to Al and Joe Dietrich, brothers who operate a 630-acre fruit farm called Riverview Orchards on Fruit Ridge near Conklin, Michigan. The award was presented during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market Expo in December.
The Dietrich family settled on what was then 80 acres in 1853. Joe and Al are fifth generation growers—and now partners with their sons, Ryan and Daniel.
Both Al and Joe have been active in leadership in the fruit industry.
Joe and his wife Kathy have three children, including Ryan. Joe is on the board of the MACMA apple committee, a Michigan Farm Bureau affiliate that sponsors the Michigan Processing Apple Growers, which bargains on price and other marketing terms with processors. He is also a director of Cherry Growers, Inc., a cooperative of about 100 growers of apples and cherries.
Al and his wife Helen have six children, one of whom, Daniel, is a partner with three children who represent the seventh generation on the farm. A daughter, Laura, was Michigan Apple Queen in 2008.
Al is a past president of MACMA apple committee. He served on the Michigan Apple Committee and is a previous board member of the U.S. Apple Association. Helen chairs the Farm Bureau Ag Labor Committee, and she represents migrant workers on several committees and is minority advisor to the Ottawa County Farm Service Agency board. Helen manages payroll for the farm, while Kathy manages accounts payable.
The Dietrich family farm began as a traditional farm and gradually transitioned to a fruit farming. After years of brothers and cousins farming together, in 1984 Al and Joe and their cousins, Mike and Jim, split the farm into two orcharding operations. The cousins operate under the name Leo Dietrich and Sons, Leo being grandfather to the four cousins.
Together, the two enterprises operate Dietrich Orchards, a packing, storing, and shipping business. In that operation, they have CA storage capacity for 800,000 bushels of apples, and they grow and pack apples, cherries, and asparagus. The apples are marketed by Riveridge Produce.