Farming has been a part of our family for three generations. Growing up, Dale and his father had a small orchard in Seven Hills. They sold wholesale to several of the farm markets in the Cleveland suburbs. After getting his degree in horticulture from OSU, Dale went on to Michigan State for his master’s. In 1974, he purchased an old dairy farm in Ashtabula County and named it Sunnydale Farms. He renovated it by planting orchards and berry fields.
A few years later, Dale married Peg, an English teacher from Brooklyn, Ohio. Peg joined him at the farm and began teaching at the local junior high. Together they expanded Sunnydale to encompass close to 200 acres. Not long after they could walk, Chris and Matt were helping out in the strawberry fields, taking on many other responsibilities as they got older.
By the early ’90s, Dale wanted a new challenge. After spending several years scouring the country for a new orchard, we moved to Washington state in 1996 to grow world famous Washington apples. Chris took a job at the Washington State University’s IAREC (similar to Ohio State’s OARDC facilities in Wooster) while attending college.
But not long after, we all missed being back east. Dale and Peg decided to try their hand at retirement and moved to the beautiful Smoky Mountains. Matt started attending college at UT. Chris was offered a spot in the graduate program at Case Western Reserve and jumped at the chance to move back to the area.
Retirement didn’t suit Dale and Peg, who were soon restless for another challenge. Peg enrolled in a culinary program with a focus on baking, while Dale started to look for another orchard. They both wanted to be back in Ohio, and they purchased Rittman Orchards in 2004. Chris wanted to get back into business with his parents, and he and Dale immediately started pulling out the much neglected orchards and replanting. As soon as Matt graduated, he also came on board full time.
In 2005 we rebuilt the market. Since then we’ve added many new crops and products. Peg has greatly expanded the bakery. Matt runs a stand at farmers’ markets in Cleveland and works with quite a few chefs to supply them with quality local produce. Chris and Dale manage the farming. The four of us are proud to be providing you with delicious homegrown fruits and vegetables and are excited to be taking the business in some new directions…like the brand new cidery/winery we have opened, Bent Ladder Cider and Wine!