THERE ARE, OF COURSE, Linvilla- patrons who are less than appreciative of the farm’s expansion. A few online reviews decry the orchard’s “mass commercialism” and “dirty, crowded carnival-” vibe. Debate over whether the bakery’s famous pies are actually homemade or Mrs. Smith’s—“My brother … saw them unloading the truck,” one commenter claims—has raged for years. (“We do have someone who makes the pies for us now,” Ferber says. “It’s not Mrs. Smith’s. And it’s not something I advertise.”) As one customer shrugged to me on the jostling ride back from the strawberry fields, “It’s pick-your-own, but it’s factory pick-your-own.”
But Linvilla has a plan on the books that may be the perfect way to please both those who like a little history along with their picking and those who love the modern, well-oiled Linvilla machine. The farm’s beloved centerpiece—its octagonal barn, which went on to become a gift shop—burned to the ground in a 2002 fire. Now, Linvilla is plotting to rebuild it. The plans include a giant indoor playground and party space, not to mention a coffee shop.
Linvilla frequenter Jenna Moon can’t wait to see it—she recalls her first visit after the barn fire as “heartbreaking. I just couldn’t believe it was gone. But then I realized, the orchards are still there. The animals are still there. The people are still there.”
So she kept going, too. Moon says she was thrilled to talk for this story, that she told Ferber “I’d put in a good word any way I can.” I mention to her that Ferber, when he recommended I speak with her, seemed grateful for her loyal patronage. He knew all of her family’s favorite things to do at the farm: visiting the playground, picking, fishing. How long had she known him?
“I don’t know that I’ve ever met him in person,” Moon replies. “But whenever I send him an e-mail, he sends one right back.”