By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The longest running business in the city of Millington is spread throughout Flag City to the tune of 600 acres.
Back in 1940, a man moved from Lexington and set up roots, stems and seeds in Millington creating Jones Orchard. The creation of HL “Peach Orchard” Jones has grown into a staple in Southwest Tennessee.
Three generations later, Jones Orchard is still a destination for fresh produce, photo shoots, a taste of classic America and a display of traditional family values. Sales manager “Taco” Henry Jones took a break from organizing the 15th Annual Jones Orchard Haunted Maze to reflect on 80 years of history.
“We have love what we do,” he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of love for what you’re doing to last this long. You also have to adapt and change to the changing taste of the consumer.
“The consumer today is very discerning and more savvy than they used to be,” Henry added. “That’s why we provide the best high quality local produce. They won’t accept any less. They keep us on our Ps and Qs.”
Jones Orchard keeps up with the Joneses through social media via Instagram, Facebook and www.jonesorchard.com.
But before you could survey the fields of Jones Orchard on your computer or cell phone, HL come to Millington as a jack of trades. The creator of Jones Orchard was a chemist, teacher and University of Tennessee extension agent.
In his spare time, he cultivated 5 acres with the help of his wife Ruth Wood Jones. Ruth’s family was native of Millington as part of the Wood/Woods.
“He grew the farm slow and steady,” Henry recalled. “The first farm which is still in operation today started at 6824 Big Creek Church Road. Today we’re 600 acres with my father growing a lot that once he came back.”
Lee Jones, 83, still comes to work everyday to tend to a portion of the land. Back in the 1960s and 70s, Lee bought a lot of the acres to grow Jones Orchard’s signature peaches.
Over those years, Jones Orchard became known for fruits, vegetables, pick-of-the-day, homemade products and original menu items at the 7170 Highway 51 North location.
Henry can be found down the road at 6880 Singleton Parkway, with the pick-your-own format. Moving back from Nashville in 1999, Henry took on the responsibility of growing the family business and helping it reach it’s 80th birthday.
“I grew up on the farm,” he noted. “I stepped off the farm for 7 years but I’ve been back for good every since.”
Henry joins forces with his father Lee and mother Ms. Juanita for daily operations. Patrons have visited their Orchards for strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, pumpkins, nectarines, some apples, Keifer pears and a variety of items in jars.
“We do them in jars because we think the jars are a safer option now,” Juanita told The Star back in 2018. “Jars are the safer way opposed to the cans. And we do everything in our kitchen here. We bring it straight out of the field into our kitchen and put them in jars. We think that is a real plus for us because that is something you cannot get everywhere else.”
With October here, the Highway 51 location is decorated with tomatoes. Juanita and crew are busy transforming the fruit into multiple items like Jones’ Garden Salsa, Jones’ Tennessee Chow Chow, Jones’ Peach Salsa, Jones’ Flamin’ Hot Salsa and Jones’ Stewed Tomatoes.
Henry said with all those great items created in the kitchen of Jones Orchard, the best offering from the business has been there since 1940 — freestone peaches. From July to mid August, the parking lot is full of customers looking for those peaches.
In October the biggest draw is the Haunted Maze. With the coronavirus placing some restrictions on activities, Jones Orchard will showcase two haunted mazes this year with the help of the Kilgore Crew doing props for “Hysteria.” To help enforce social distancing, there will not be a hayride this year. But the hayride will be transformed into a part of “Shadowlands.”
The opening weekend will be Friday and Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. Then for the next three weeks in October, the Haunted Maze will be opened Friday through Sunday with times on Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m. Then the weekend of Halloween, the maze will be open Friday and Saturday.
“We take a lot of pride in being open this long,” Henry said. “To be honest, I didn’t want to be the one to mess things up and now I hope my children don’t mess it up. But it is special to be operating this long.”
Henry and his wife Danyna Jones said the secrets to success for 80 years are family involvement and customer loyalty.
“You can’t stay in business without support,” he concluded. “We want to give the biggest shout out and say a sincere thank you to all who have supported us over the year.”