With the beginning of fall comes innate craving for pumpkin spice, sweaters, apples and apple cider. For Scott Downing, 52, of Downing Fruit Farm, this is optimal selling season.
His family has been in the apple business for 178 years, and he is a seventh-generation owner.
Darke County, where the farm resides, had a demand for fresh produce, and the farmland was inexpensive almost two centuries ago when his ancestors started the business. It has remained in the family ever since.
“We raise about 75 different varieties of apples and we make about 20,000 gallons of cider a year,” Downing said.
As a full-time orchardist, Downing said he knows no other lifestyle. His father starting grooming him to run the family business when he was a child.
Many of Downing’s memories are of learning the tools of the apple trade from his father. His personal favorite is of when his father would have him close his eyes and guess which apple he was tasting.
The farm started selling its products in Oxford because representatives from the visitor’s bureau contacted the family when the market first started years ago.
“I had a lady 12 or 13 years ago reach out to me and ask if I would be interested in coming down here,” Downing said. “It’s about an hour [drive], but I’m glad she did because this is a great market. We do well.”
Other than the farmers’ market in town, the family also sells in a variety of other settings, including selling wholesale to stores in Oxford and to Miami University.
“We sell to our local school district,” Downing said. “A lot of the local high schools buy apples to sell in the cafeterias.”
The Downing Fruit Farm produces an apple cider that has won the National Cider Contest, making it the “best cider in the United States.” Downing attributes this triumph to the success he has had selling his produce in Oxford.
Despite the lengthy drive, he holds Oxford in high regard.
“The city and people are always exceptional and business is great,” he said.
The Oxford Farmers Market operates every Saturday during the fall and summer seasons and every third Saturday during the winter.