Canyon County

Williamson Orchards still selling fruit, but now it’s by the glass

Williamson Orchards is a past recipient of the Idaho Century Farm Award from the Idaho Historical Society. The Williamson family homesteaded in Sunnyslope in 1909 and was one of the first families to plant cherry and apple trees in the area. Each generation expanded the farm.
Williamson Orchards is a past recipient of the Idaho Century Farm Award from the Idaho Historical Society. The Williamson family homesteaded in Sunnyslope in 1909 and was one of the first families to plant cherry and apple trees in the area. Each generation expanded the farm. Idaho Statesman file

The Williamson family first homesteaded their land in Canyon County in 1909 through the Homestead Act of 1862. The family stayed. It farmed. Over a century, the venture grew into Williamson Orchards & Vineyards, a business known for its fresh fruit and later wine on Sunnyslope Road in Caldwell.

Beginning this month, the family will focus on its wine business. A new tasting room opens to the public at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 14807 Sunnyslope Road. A grand opening event is planned for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.

This is good news for wine lovers, but it also means the Williamson family has ended direct fruit sales to the public.

Family spokeswoman Beverly Williamson blamed the volatility of the fruit market in the 1990s that caused a lot of fruit producers to reassess their businesses and find new markets. The family — that had grown apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries and more for decades — planted its first grape vineyards for a local winery in 1999. They soon began producing their own wine and bottled their first Cabernet Sauvignon in 2001.

The shift from fruit to wine was a tough choice to make, Williamson said.

“But we looked at the hurdles and said we can possibly lose our business or we can continue on for four more generations,” said Beverly Williamson. “I think it’s the right choice.”

The orchard sold its last fruit to the public last fall, though it did open its orchards for u-pick cherries briefly this year. The Williamsons will consider whether or not continuing u-pick will fit into their plans.

“But we’re excited to get the new tasting room up and running,” said Williamson.

The family has 50 acres of grape vines. The plan is to increase that by three or five acres a year for the next five to 10 years.

All is not lost for those who crave Williamson fruit, though they will not be able to buy it directly from the source. The orchard still has 300 acres of fruit trees. The Williamsons have contracts with other local fruit stands and will continue to grow fruit for them to sell.

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