Chudleigh’s Apple Farm Ltd.
Tom and Carol Chudleigh took over the family apple farm over 40 years ago, helping to cement the reputation of Chudleigh’s Apple Farm Ltd. (Chudleigh’s) as a cornerstone of the local business community and a pioneer of delicious treats. And the family tradition continues, as two of Tom and Carol’s three sons, Dean and Scott, came back to the farm to oversee its expansion into the private label and branded production of pies and pastries.
Six generations of apple farming experience and a strong love for the Milton, Ontario, community have allowed Chudleigh’s to churn out close to 1 million signature apple blossom desserts weekly. To boot, the team proudly carries on a tradition of wholesome, healthy family fun. What was once just a straightforward apple farm has blossomed into a full-scale apple retailer, an agricultural entertainment destination and a commercial bakery, which operates as Chudleigh’s Ltd. and is headed by Dean.
“About 50 years ago we picked up and moved from Mississauga to the Milton area because of the Niagara escarpment’s ability to tumble the air coming off of the Great Lakes and protect apple blossoms from frost,” admits Tom, president of Chudleigh’s. This magical process protected the farm’s apple blossoms for 52 wonderful seasons until 2012, when the weather went little nuts: A frost hit and apple growers from New York to Minnesota suffered heavy losses. Even so, Tom and Carol remained as cool as a cucumber, in part because apple farming is just one part of the Chudleigh pie.
“We were one of the first farms in the area to begin selling our apples directly to the public as a retailer,” expands Tom. By 1972 the farm began selling donuts and cider to its visitors until the local donut producer decided to retire, effectively leaving the farm without its faithful donut supply. Never the type of family to panic, though, Carol came to the rescue in 1973 and began baking apple pies with the help of a few local housewives. The pies were baked in the families’ ovens, sliced into 25 pieces and served straight up on a napkin for 25 cents a pop.
“We knew we were onto something when one of our sales girls came in with a customer asking to buy the whole pie,” recalls Tom. “Carol told the customer the price was $6 a pie, which was a huge price in those days, when a whole pie might have only cost $1 or $2, but that customer bought two pies.” From that moment on, Carol could hardly keep up with the demand for more pies.
Investing in Increased Efficiencies
Before long, one of the barns was renovated to house a gallery of commercial ovens, which could bake more pies, with greater consistency than an individual home oven. “We didn’t have to babysit each individual pie anymore,” jokes Tom. The business continued to grow until 1990, when a fire swept through the area and the Chudleigh farm was reduced to little more than the farmhouse. The silver lining wound up being the bakery’s complete relocation into a full-scale commercial bakery in the town of Milton, Ontario.
Providence struck again in 1995 when Scott, vice president of Chudleigh’s, played around with a circular piece of pastry. Scott filled it with apple pie filling and folded the creation into an apple blossom shape. The creation became the company’s signature dish and was further perfected for large-scale commercial production; Chudleigh’s now churns out the delicacy for club stores, grocery chains and foodservice customers across the globe.
“Roughly 60 to 70 percent of our product goes to the United States,” says Tom. “About 20 percent stays within Canada, and the remainder shipped to customers in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and even the United Arab Emirates.”
The bakery operations relocated to a 120,000-square foot facility in Milton in 2007. From there, the company now churns out a variety of additional pastry items like quiches and molten chocolate lava cakes.
A Family Future
The facility is constantly updated to stay abreast of food safety regulations and the production needs of its clients, but one thing will always remain constant: Chudleigh’s insists on using only the finest natural ingredients and Northern Spy apples to make each and every signature Apple Blossom.
“The reality is that Northern Spy apples have never been very lucrative and have always a processing apple,” opines Tom. “Looking down the road, we were seriously concerned that we might not have enough to keep up with our production, so we actually invested significantly in our own permanent Northern Spy orchard and it’s going very well.”
Meanwhile, the family farm has expanded to house over 36,000 apple trees peppered across 100 acres. The farm is also host to a variety of family fun activities, including pick-your-own apple orchards, apple tastings and autumnal hay rides. The farm is open to the public for a small admission fee, with a discounted family admission price to encourage memory making.
The loss of apple crops in 2012 hasn’t fazed the Chudleigh family yet, either, and the company plans on filling in any supply gaps with apples from producers in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. With utmost care for the quality of all of its products and a longstanding family tradition of apple farming, the Chudleigh family, Chudleigh’s Ltd. and Chudleigh’s Apple Farm Ltd. will ensure families have more reasons than ever to delight in one another’s company and savor the sweet taste of Canada’s finest apples.