Food Service & Agriculture, Real Estate, and Retail

Orchard’s sale is ‘enormous loss’

Klackle Orchards’ second-generation owners selling ‘family fun farm’ after four decades.

December 14, 2018
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Klackle Orchards in Greenville is a popular destination. With its owners retiring, however, the attraction will go on the auction block early next year. Courtesy Klackle Orchards

Families in Greenville posed for photos in the pumpkin patch and picked their last apples at Klackle Orchards this fall.

Steve Klackle and Rosemary Klackle said this month that they are selling their 450-acre farm at 11466 W. Carson City Road in Greenville. The operation, which has about 100 employees at peak season, includes a farm market, you-pick orchard, pumpkin patch, hayrides, corn maze and indoor multi-sports center and events space.

The Klackles have engaged Mason-based real estate broker Sheridan Realty & Auction to conduct an auction online at sheridanauctionservice.com to sell the real estate and personal property. The auction will start sometime in February — the exact day has not been determined yet — and close March 13.

Steve Klackle said selling the farm to an outside party was the couple’s best option for retirement, as their children, Natalie and Ryan, did not plan to continue the business.

“I’m 65,” he said. “I won’t say all farm families are big, but a lot of times, you’ve got three or four kids involved doing chores out of high school, plus nephews and cousins, and that was not our situation.”

Ray Klackle, Steve Klackle’s father, who also owned a farm in Belding, bought the property from Ore-Ida Foods when the company shuttered its plant in the late 1960s. By planting an orchard on the property, Ray Klackle followed in the footsteps of his father, a fruit grower in Stevensville.

Steve Klackle and Rosemary Klackle took over ownership when Ray Klackle died in 1978.

“Dad passed away, and we sold off the Belding farm and kept the Greenville farm,” Steve Klackle said. “I started with direct marketing, advertising products from the road and selling direct to customers with no middleman. I guess you could call it a farm market.”

Greenville residents Don Burns and Maureen Burns, who are longtime friends of the Klackles and took their children — and now grandchildren — to the orchard every fall for decades, said the Klackles were “innovators” for developing the farm into an entertainment destination.

“They were pioneers in the business of farms becoming something more than just apples,” Don Burns said.

Maureen Burns said their children worked on the farm and saw firsthand the Klackles’ “terrific work ethic.” Over the years, she said, the farm and its owners became “a pillar of the community.”

“I think it is an enormous loss,” she said. “I’m out in the public a lot, and I think people are very hopeful that someone will come in and be another Steve Klackle. But it’s very hard work and very dependent on the weather. The Klackles are very deep, faith-rooted people and always seemed to be able to ride out the storms.”

More than 500 people commented on Klackle Orchards’ Dec. 4 Facebook post about the couple’s pending retirement.

Billie Whitescarver Halfmann commented, “You have been an asset to our community, and I wish you well. I hope that someone else can pick up the torch and continue to make Klackle Orchards/Greenville a destination place.”

Rosemarie David added: “We are so thankful for the gift that your family has given us (and countless others) all these years! Every year, our kids and now grandbabies come up from Oklahoma so we can visit your orchard. It is our favorite family tradition. We will miss you guys and pray a blessing over your retirement.”

Steve Klackle said he believes the farm has a bright future, as evidenced by the strong interest from potential buyers stopping by Sheridan Realty & Auction’s booth to ask about the Klackle Orchards property during the Great Lakes Expo from Dec. 4-7 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.

While he can’t predict who will register as a bidder, he said prospective buyers could include small, mid-size and large fruit growers looking to expand, those looking to begin or expand direct produce sales — and perhaps even potato farmers, hearkening back to the Ore-Ida days.

He said Sheridan Realty & Auction likely will consider parceling the farm into smaller chunks, meaning there could be multiple buyers.

“Some parcels might even go as ‘country estates’ or to hobby farmers,” Steve Klackle said.

He said the farm’s location on the edge of Greenville is ideal because it is “a progressively growing community on the rebound from when it was a poster child of jobs going elsewhere when Electrolux Refrigerators closed and left town.”

“There is certainly a development potential to the property at some point in time,” he said. “As a family, of course, we certainly hope there is interest from a party that would perhaps continue to offer the proverbial ‘fall visit to the orchard/pumpkin patch’ that we have been able to provide through the years.”

As of press time, the retail portion of the farm, the Cornucopia Farm Market, was set to have its last day Dec. 15.

“The Klackle family would sincerely like to thank all of our current and past employees for their loyalty and hard work to assist us in building the business we have,” Steve Klackle said.

“We would also, of course, like to express our gratitude to the West Michigan community for supporting our pick-your-own apple and pumpkin operation through the years. We were glad to be a part of your fall family tradition of visiting the orchard.”

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