The History of Almar Orchards

Apples are in the Koans’ blood. The first “Koan” moved to America from Canada – George Ranceer Coon (1824-1908), bought an orchard in the mid-1800s and that tradition has continued through to Almar Orchards current owners, Jim Koan, son Zachary Koan and daughter Monique Lapinski.

The Koans in Flushing, Michigan

The first appearance of the Koans (the last name was changed by George’s children) in the Flushing is in 1860 census records, and then on a 1873 map of Flushing Township. George’s son Arthur Koan (1853-1923) is found in the 1870 census records for Clayton Township, and his name appears on a map from 1899 on Beecher Road, on the same plot where a historical home is still owned by the Koan family, and is recorded to have been established in 1872.

Planting the Trees

Arthur Koan planted the first trees on property which his son Albert Koan Sr (1886-1978) turned into Koan’s Orchard – the oldest business in Genesee County. Albert Senior was also known in the area for his hard cider, which was rumored to have saved the farm during the depression.

Albert’s son Albert Junior (1923-2013) learned his trade working on his father’s farm and at other orchards in the area. In 1944 he married Mary Vass, and moved around the corner from Beecher to Duffield Road, and  Almar (Al-Mar for Albert and Mary) Orchards was born.

Albert planted his first trees just south of the Mistenguay Creek in 1948, the same year his son Jim (James) was born. Until the trees matured, Albert supported the family selling his father’s apples, working on other farms and working as a plumber with Staley’s in Flushing. He tried other fruit trees as well, plums, cherries and peaches, but in the end, it was the apples that made the orchard.

A Family Business

Albert sold apples out of his garage, as well as at the Flint City Market, and in 1955 a small store was built on the site of the current Almar farm store. In the early 1960s apple storage and a cider mill were added, and the orchard continued to expand. Mary made fresh donuts in a kitchen no larger than a closet.

As with most family farms, Albert’s children worked at the orchard, but Jim left the farm for college and a teaching career. In 1971 Jim married Karen Duso who was also a teacher, and after a full days work at their schools, both Jim and Karen would come to the orchard to pick and sort apples. In 1978 Jim left teaching to return to the farm, and become a full partner in the business.

Almar Orchards Today

Jim Koan has expanded not only the orchard, but the storage facilities and production facilities. In the 1980s he began the process of converting the orchard to an organic operation, and has become a leader in the science and art of organic orchard management. As a part of the organic management program, Jim experimented with using pigs to eat the apples under the trees – the pigs are still an integral part of the farm, eating the pulp from the cider mill and apples not good enough to be crushed.

Jim also expanded the Almar product line, introducing first apple cider vinegar, then apple wine followed by hard cider, also known as Scrumpy. Today, JK Scrumpy is known the world over by people who appreciate organic, traditionally brewed hard cider. The hard cider operation is now managed by his son Zach who has introduced several new varieties of cider, further automated the bottling and labeling equipment and built a new tasting area to replace the taps used in Grandfather Albert’s day. Jim’s daughter Monique manages the Orchard’s finances.