Linvilla Orchards: The Disneyland of Family Farms

Why do a million people trek to pick-your-own emporium Linvilla Orchards? Credit the bucolic setting, the delicious fruits—and one state-of-the-art Facebook strategy

Along for the expansion ride were local, loyal customers like Jenna Moon, 34, Brookhaven-born and -bred, who’s been going to Linvilla since she was a child. As a teenager, she’d go with dates to feed the ducks—something she now does with her five-year-old son and 17-month-old daughter.

“The funny thing is, you can go there and spend a fortune, or you can go there and not spend a single dime,” Moon says. “Either way, you have a great time.”

True, you can absolutely take a lovely- stroll around the orchards for free. Of course, on the day of the Strawberry Festival, exactly zero five-year-olds seemed up for that plan.

Linvilla’s various activities add up quickly. Walking the maze: $4 per person-. Pony ride: $6 for the ride or $10 for the deluxe package, which includes a photo and cowboy hat. Pick-your-own strawberries start at $4.99 a quart (prices go down as you pick more)—plus the charge for the lift to the field. “Anyone who isn’t picking, it’s $3 for the hayride,” an employee re-iterated firmly to a group that looked to be comprised of four grandparents, two parents and one young child. The adults exchanged dubious glances, then paid up and shuffled aboard.

To Linvilla’s credit, though, you get the sense that the farm is part of some families’ new frugality. Linvilla birthday parties-—which Ferber is booking more and more—start at $245 for up to 14 people. (You get pizza, a sheet cake and a gallon of cider or lemonade.) Sure, a backyard barbecue and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey is cheaper. But it’s easy to imagine that just a few fat years ago, the father in the Titleist hat and the Vuitton-toting mother- feting their kid in the picnic-table area might have gone the $10,000 themed-party route.

Even as Linvilla benefits from its customers’ belt-tightening, it’s also getting a boost from the upscale trend of buying local. Phil Forsyth, a Linvilla customer- and the director of the Philadelphia Orchard Project-, which plants fruits and perennials in neglected urban areas, sees that demand growing across the area. “People are turning their backyards into edible landscapes, and nurseries are carrying more plants to help them do that,” says Forsyth. “Sure, Linvilla is kind of like the Disneyland of pick-your-own, but it’s great that they’re getting people out there to have this experience. Kids are more likely to eat something they pulled off a tree themselves than something you just hand to them.”

Seeing the stuff they eat come out of the ground isn’t just for urban yuppie-hippies, either. Ferber has found it’s also especially important to first-generation- immigrant families, who make up an increasingly large segment of Linvilla customers. And for health-trend-conscious suburban moms, whole-wheat peanut butter cookies and sugar-free desserts have crept in alongside the strawberry shortcake, pound cake, angel food cake, cobbler and sticky buns in Linvilla’s bakery.