There are family businesses and then there are family businesses. Dawson’s Orchards is the real thing. Begun in 1946 when Carolyn McQuiston’s parents started raising chickens and planting fruit after WWII, the farm eventually became a true orchard.
In 1980, Carolyn and her husband came to help on the farm and bought it from her parents in 1984. Working with her dad, who served as a mentor until 1994 when he passed, Carolyn kept the business growing (no pun intended). In 2000, her husband also passed, but Carolyn stayed focused.
Through her son’s soccer team, Carolyn met Scott McQuiston and they married in 2008. In 2009, Scott retired as vice president at a steel mill and came to put his business acumen to work alongside Carolyn’s horticulture knowledge.
Today, the third generation also works the farm. Carolyn’s daughter Karen takes care of the business end and maintains the website; her husband Rob handles deliveries. Karen’s children, Darren & Emme can also be found helping on any given day and, we suspect, the baby Karen and Rob are expecting in October might also get the orchard gene.
Carolyn’s son Stephen, who graduated from seminary last year, now serves as the orchard manager and Scott’s daughter Lindsay, who graduated from Cornell University with a MA in Food Science is their Assistant Food Safety Director.
“We don’t think of food safety as something we HAVE to do to pass an audit,” explains Scott, who is passionate about it. “It is integral to everything we do. We grow, pack and ship, so everything we sell is traceable from start to finish. We think of ourselves as stewards of the land rather than owners. In this sense, we take care of the land, we take care of the food we grow and we take care of the customers we share our bounty with. It’s just the way we do things.”
In addition to taking care of the land and their customers, Dawson’s Orchards gives to the Pittsburgh Food Bank while Karen, Rob and Lindsay are very active in helping the Feed the Sheep program, a Christian organization that offers food, clothing and other necessities to those in need.
Look for their peaches in our Pittsburgh-area stores this month and their new crop of Ginger Gold apples later in the month. These early, first crop Dawson’s Orchards apples will be followed by McIntosh, Gala and other varieties throughout the fall apple season. Bring them home to your family knowing that three generations of care (possibly four) are in every bite!