Welcome to the Black’s Shady Knoll Orchard family!
We are truly a family farm and operation with Jim and Karen Black along with their daughters, Kati (Black) Roby and Amanda (Black) Murphy making the 3rd and 4th generations in the business. The 5th generation are grandsons Landon and Jace Murphy and the husbands Brian Roby and Brad Murphy are learning the ropes.
It all began with Lawrence and Nellie Seiler (Jim’s Grandparents) purchasing 48 acres in Hale Township along State Route 31 in 1928. Here the Seiler Fruit Farm was planted and where the new orchard is currently planted. Later, their son-in-law, Grafton and daughter, Kathryn (Seiler) Black, purchased land just south of the fruit farm and planted additional fruit trees. Lawrence and Nellie operated their fruit farm until retirement in 1957. Grafton then managed the operation and in 1975 he and Kathryn purchased the Seiler Fruit Farm adding it to their operation, Black’s Shady Knoll Orchard. Grafton then retired in 1981 and their son, James (Jim) Black ran the combined acreage.
In 1987, the Seiler/Black orchard was closed after almost 60 years of serving Hardin County and the surrounding communities. A variety of fruit trees, apple, peach, pear and plum, were pushed out and the land was used to grow corn and soybeans with the exception of the original (Seiler) orchard across from the stone house.
Kati, Jim’s oldest daughter, caught him gazing across the road from his house one day. She inquired what was going through his head? His response was “The only good thing that land is good for is apple trees.”. After Jim retired from Honda, he began to explore the idea of replanting the orchard. His family knew how much he enjoyed working in the orchard. So, with the encouragement from his daughters Kati (Black) Roby and Amanda (Black) Murphy as well as support from his wife Karen, he proceeded to make plans to replant the family orchard. At that time, he made a deal with his daughters Kati and Amanda, “If I grow the apples, you sell them.” The first part of the plan was set in motion.
In 2010, the first apple trees for the new orchard were planted with dwarf trees. The dwarf tree is a smaller tree and produces fruit within 3-5 years. Because it is a smaller, weaker tree, it is necessary to use a trellis system to support the trees. Jim calls this first acre the “Experimental Orchard”. Each year a few more trees are added and after the spring planting of 2018, we now have close to 3,000 trees in three acres.
The sale’s room was re-opened in the same location once the first planting of trees were bearing fruit in 2013. In a short amount of time, our family was reminded of why we had the urge to begin again. We enjoy conversations that start with “I remember when…”. We have heard stories about Black’s Orchard’s past as well as unheard stories of cherished family members. Most we can share, a few we can not. We enjoy the time we get to spend with the community, visitors, and passers-by. And lastly but most definitely not the least, we enjoy providing a quality product for our friends, family, and community!
See you at the Shady Knoll!!!