Country Maid Orchard has grown to 4,000 trees, berries and vegetables

Homemade ice cream draws the crowds

by Dan Holland

Preparations to open and run Country Maid Ice Cream and Orchard on Route 303 take on a number of different forms for siblings Don, Steve and Rose Marie Torma of Richfield, who have owned and operated the landmark business for 45 years, ever since acquiring it in 1978 from original owner Frank Holeski. 

Steve Torma has been running the orchard end of the business full-time over the decades, while both Don and Rose Marie held full-time careers in the high school education field. The latter two jumped in as much as possible over the years and were able to take on full-time status when they both retired from teaching in 2014.

Rose Torma (l) is often found in the orchard store, managing the fruits, berries and vegetables, with Don helping out after the ice cream is made. Photo by D. Holland.

Rose Marie refers to herself as the “go-for” of the family business. “I’ve done a lot of things, from helping Steve in the back barn to working in the ice cream store and bookkeeping,” she explained. “Don is very good at managing the ice cream end of it, and Steve does a lot of hard work out in the orchard. I do the filling in of whatever needs to be done.”

Ice Cream
Preparations to open up the ice cream shop, which is open seven days a week beginning in April through late fall, includes maintenance of all equipment, a complete cleaning and waxing of all floors, and ordering supplies for the upcoming season, according to Don Torma.

The shop offers 24 flavors of ice cream and four flavors each of sherbet and frozen yogurt all custom made onsite. Don spends three days a week making and packaging their product, using two batch freezers that produce ten gallons of ice cream every eight minutes.

“We take an inventory each week so we know what we have in our walk-in freezer,” said Don. “From there, we make up our ice cream list for the week, and if we do it right, we have enough to run through the week.”

Don Torma makes the ice cream daily, so it is always fresh. Photo by S. Serdinak.

The ice cream shop employs approximately 30 part-time workers – mostly high school and college students – during the busy summer months. Typically, 400 to 500 gallons of ice cream are produced each week in summer using a blend that includes a 14% cream mixture, sugar and milk. Fruit from the orchard is often included in the process.

“We make our product onsite and sell it onsite, which makes us unique,” said Don. “There are lots of ice cream stores all over Northeast Ohio, but very few have the outdoor seating areas that we have. We have two or three acres where people can spread out on one of our three decks.”

A landscaped stone paver block patio, completed in March, is the latest outdoor addition.

“When we get compliments on how good the ice cream is, that makes us feel good since we make it right here,” said Don. “The pride of making it ourselves and the fact that people can sit around this beautiful area in Richfield and enjoy their ice cream year after year is a great thing.”

The semi-dwarf Jonathon apple tree was a mainstay in the Country Maid orchard for many years. Today many apple varieties are grown, along with other fruits, vegetables and berries. Photo by S. Serdinak.

The Orchard
Steve Torma, along with a crew of four seniors and one or two young workers, maintains the family’s 4,000 fruit trees and other crops grown on the main 25-acre site and an additional 20-acre leased site located near Major and Oak Hill roads.

“We’ve expanded a little bit over time as far as what we carry,” said Steve. “Besides apples and peaches, we’re into plums and pears, peppers, tomatoes, and beans. We’re getting big into berries now with some blueberries and blackberries. We’ve diversified over the years on the farm end of it.”

In 2017, Steve Torma transitioned to planting dwarf fruit trees for Country Maid Orchard, when he planted 600 dwarf apple trees off Black Road. Photo by D. Holland.

A major project in 2017 involved the planting of 600 dwarf apple trees along Black Road.

“As far as apples, that main section across the street was replanted five or six years ago when we switched from semi-dwarf trees – which grow to about 12-15 feet in height – down to something we hoped would be a little bit more manageable,” said Steve. “Labor is a big factor, so anytime you can make it easier for picking or anything else, that’s a bonus.”

The winter months involve pruning the apple trees, and the first dormant oil spray is applied in March. Weather is always the biggest challenge, however, as a late spring frost can adversely affect the peach crop, said Steve.

“We plant a little bit each year,” he said. “This year, we’re pretty heavy in replanting peach trees and replanting some blackberries. We’re constantly planting and replanting; taking out old trees – varieties that I don’t like anymore. It’s an ongoing process.”

The bulk of the sales at Country Maid Orchard happen after Labor Day. The shop, which is open from mid-July until Christmas, specializes in more than ten varieties of apples, apple cider, baked goods, jams and jellies.

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Featured Photos: Steve Torma prunes a newer dwarf apple tree. Siblings Rose, Steve and Don stand inside the ice cream parlor where thousands
will purchase homemade ice cream this season.
Photos by D. Holland and S. Serdinak.