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ALR Report Center Grove Orchards – Part 1


Part 1 of 3

Report on Center Grove Orchards

Hey, [[ contact.first_name | default: ‘Friend’ ]],

Part 1 – NAFDMA ALR Report Center Grove Orchards – Part 1 “In the market.”

I admit that I have wanted to visit Steve and Deanna Black’s farm for a long time. (Quick note: They are brother and sister, not husband and wife!)

The NAFDMA Advanced Learning Retreat is a gem of agritourism learning experiences with essentially a ‘deep dive’ into the specifics of 1 to 2 operations. It is not a quick, 1 hour per stop 6 stops in a day bus tour. The benefit is that you have more time to soak up the ins and outs of each business. If you haven’t been to an ALR, look into it or call me with any questions. (I’m so old I’ve been to nearly all of them from the very beginning of ALRs!)

On to Center Grove, which I’ll be reporting on in 3 parts:

  1. Farm Market and indoor spaces
  2. Foodservice bright ideas
  3. Attractions & admissions

If you couldn’t make it, or even if you did, I would LOVE it if you would share your thoughts and pictures with me from the trip or ask clarifying questions if you missed it.


Part 1 Farm market and indoor spaces

At CGO, the farm market takes center stage with a new entrance featuring an old tractor and hay elevator. (Pictured above) This leads into a hallway with viewing windows for donuts and a silo coffee bar. (Pictured above) Straight ahead is the exit into the farm park attractions, left is the farm market.

The farm market is a study in the outdoors/indoors motif through a straightforward, high-traffic-flow layout, which is a single loop through the displays, to a spectacular 6-lane checkout. (Pictured below) The ‘loop’ surrounds a two-sided sampling station and displays on both sides. Ben Beaver used to remind us, “Can 100% of the people see 100% of your products?”

Here they can, they are forced into the traffic flow without choices, which ensures everyone sees the merchandise. What was amazing was the use of fairly standard building materials, a pole barn, sheet metal ceilings, string lights and dimensional lumber to create shelves, displays and this checkout arbor, but the addition of the decorations and farm implements transforms the ordinary into a cozy farm feel.


The outer ring of the loop features the facades of different stores, colorful homes, and awnings. Each facade features a grouping of products, such as fudge, honey, country store items, and apples.

The fudge, in particular, was well displayed on slanted shelves, then packaged to grab-n-go in clear plastic, pre-cut blocks at every register.

The bakery is a signature attraction with windows on many sides and angles to allow guests to see the baking process. Multiple donut machines allow for high-volume when needed, and manageable output on slower days.

Scratch baking, jams and applesauce feature throughout the retail and foodservice on the farm, so if you like your applesauce with your sandwich, you can take home a jar from the farm market.

Check out the pictures and send me your thoughts and ideas. Next week we’ll talk foodservice and food pricing from CGO.

Have a great week,


PS Taking a break is important to your mental health. We put out so much energy during our busy seasons, that we need to balance that output with recharge time. At the ALR I got to see friends, connect, and share, but it still was taxing. I went on a vacation with my family the following week, and only then, would I say I had recovered. Have you planned your recovery time?

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