John Barden and Hazel Dean were married in 1930 and founded Barden Family Orchard in 1931. They planted some of the first apple trees along the eastern edge of the orchard. These are the oldest trees on the farm and are evidence of John Barden’s keen interest in the science of apple-growing. They were “grafted” many years ago, meaning that a new cutting was placed in the notch of a branch of an existing tree to produce a different variety on that tree. These particular trees have a mixture of Cortland, McIntosh, and Macoun branches. John was excited to experiment with new apple varieties and enjoyed growing fruit into his early 80s.
Like his grandfather, Gilbert also has a strong interest in horticulture and loves to farm. In the 1980s, he and his grandfather began replanting much of the orchard with semi-dwarf apple trees and peaches. He also started to plant pumpkins and winter squash for more diversity. This was an exciting change for the customers. Not only could they pick apples and peaches, but they could also pick a pumpkin for Halloween.
Barden Family Orchard now grows a wide variety of apples, pumpkins, winter squash, peaches, and blueberries and has added raspberries, and, periodically, sunflowers! They began offering sweet apple cider in 2008. They are thankful for their customers' encouragement, ideas, and patience as they have grown.
As their love of farming and the land have expanded, so have their farming and conservation practices. The Natural Resources Conservation Service helped design a drip irrigation system installed on the farm in the early 1990s. The same drip irrigation system was installed in 2008 on the remainder of the farm. This is the most efficient use of one of their most important resources. They are members of the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association members and attend meetings in cooperation with the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association. At these meetings, they work closely with other Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts growers and Cooperative Extension agents on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Programs to produce their fruit in the safest and most environmentally conscious manner. They use IPM to more safely protect their crops. IPM measures have included applying early horticultural oils to reduce the population of insects that have overwintering eggs, mating disruption for trunk boring insects on peach trees, studying the insect cycles based on degree days to reduce unnecessary pesticide applications, and encouraging beneficial insect populations to increase pest control and other measures.
In 2005, they became full-time farmers, dedicating themselves to growing quality fruits and vegetables for those dedicated to buying locally grown produce. Since then, the entire Barden Family has been involved in the farm. They work together along with a very dedicated staff from crop production through harvest, attending farmer’s markets around Rhode Island, meeting customers who make their annual trip to pick apples and peaches, or the weekly customers that visit the farm market that opened in 2007. The Barden family is dedicated to growing high-quality fruit with excellent flavor. They invite you and your family to come and enjoy their farm.