Visionary orchardist, advocate for local farmers, lifelong resident
Frank Carlson. (Courtesy photo)
Franklyn Carlson, owner and president of Carlson Orchards, died early Friday, March 31, at his home in Harvard, surrounded by his family. Frank was a member of the “Class of ’43,” a group of close friends who gathered often in commemoration of their shared birth year. He was a graduate of the Bromfield School and attended the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he later served on the board of directors.
Frank was an instrumental contributor to the fresh apple market in New England and served on the board of the USApple Association to protect the interests of the family farm and U.S. apple growers. He spent his life advocating for buy-local campaigns to support local farmers and was immensely respected in his field. He was a proud member of the Massachusetts Agricultural Club and the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation and in 2017 won its prestigious John Ogonowski Member of the Year Award for distinguished service to the organization, agriculture, and community. He was an innovator and a visionary who was able to manage his own family business as well as support the prosperity of many others. He was at one point the single largest buyer of cider apples in New England, which he used in his family’s special blend of fresh apple cider. He was a frequent visitor to the Chelsea Produce Market and a friend to many in the market.
Frank had a special relationship with Jamaica through his efforts on the board of the New England Apple Council. His need for seasonal farm workers led to the national and local development of the H2A program with the government of Jamaica to protect the interests of both farmers and seasonal workers. Frank was proud of his efforts to support good, well-paying seasonal work to Jamaican citizens. In return, many farms in the region have benefited from a joint venture that ensures safe working and living conditions for many hundreds of Jamaican workers. Many of those workers have a 30-plus year history with Carlson Orchards.
Frank was a trusted town elder in Harvard and participated in the civic life of his hometown—at Town Hall, in the orchard, and in the annual Fourth of July parade. He was a friendly and inviting face to the thousands of visitors who came each year to enjoy picking apples, peaches, blueberries, and raspberries at his orchard that he considered the most beautiful in New England.
Franklyn was predeceased by his parents, Walter and Eleanor Carlson, and his brother Robert. He is survived by his longtime partner, Sheila Gates; his daughters, Katie Carlson, Emily Carlson DuLac and husband Kurtis DuLac; his brother, Bruce Carlson, and sisters, Hilda Carlson and Sandra Rowse; his stepdaughter, Symantha Gates and husband David Weiher, his stepson, Russell Gates and wife Sherri; his granddaughters, Brynn DuLac, Sylvia Weiher, Megan Gates, and Caroline Gates.
Memorial donations can be made to UMass Cold Spring Orchard Research and Education Center in Belchertown, Massachusetts; tinyurl.com/Cold-Spring-Orchard.
A celebration of his life will be held at the orchard during the weekend of May 5, ideally to coincide with the apple blossoms if conditions are right. But, as Frank was fond of saying, “No two years are the same.”