A sweet deal

Fulton Center and cideryard forge agreement that benefits both

The Fulton Center Administrator Leonard Hersh looks at buds on one of the many apple trees on the property a the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in the town of Johnstown Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)

The Fulton Center Administrator Leonard Hersh looks at buds on one of the many apple trees on the property a the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in the town of Johnstown Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)

JOHNSTOWN — When Fulton County government ran its 176-bed nursing home in the town of Johnstown, the existing on-site apple orchard went unused for decades.

Now thanks to a private partnership between the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare and a local hard cider business, a sweet deal has been worked out that’s beneficial for both.

The now-private nursing home has partnered informally with Rogers Family Orchards and its Rogers’ Cideryard LLC, allowing the latter to access its bountiful apple trees.

Jeff Jacomowitz, public relations director at Bronx-based Centers Health Care, which corporately oversees the local nursing home, said Wednesday the relationship between the two private entities has been a good.

“It’s a nice thing,” Jacomowitz says.

Mitch Rogers, owner of Rogers’ Cideryard located at 260 County Highway 131, Johnstown, said Wednesday there exists about 50 apple trees on about two acres of nursing home property. With the nursing facility’s permission, he has been able to access them for the past year. He uses the apples for his business’ locally-produced hard cider.

Pruning is in order this time of the year, but picking will come this fall during apple season.

According to Centers’ Field Marketing Manager William Wohltjen, the new business-to-business endeavor involves Rogers pruning the trees and taking care of them. In return, he gets all the apples he needs.

Wohltjen said Rogers explained to nursing home officials the pruning process and how pruning the trees helps them have a better production, making them open to more light and wind. He said that in a good year, one tree can produce 25 bushels of apples, which can produce about 80 gallons of hard cider

The county had run since the 1960s what used to call the Fulton County Infirmary, but in later years was called the Fulton County Residential Health Care Facility at 847 County Highway 122. Long before that, the property housed the Fulton County Poorhouse, where the area’s most sick, lame and disabled sought treatment. The orchard is located adjacent to or on part of land once part of the property known as the poorhouse.

The orchard –containing a mix of different apple varieties — was once used to feed the older nursing operation.

But during recent decades, the apple orchard on site lay dormant until now.

As a way to strengthen finances, the county sold the nursing home to Centers on March 31, 2012 for $3.5 million. The private facility is now known as the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare — a short and long-term rehab center.

Jacomowitz said that after Centers took over the nursing home operation, it wanted to do something about the apple orchard.

“We came and said let’s clean it up,” he noted.

Rogers said he’s been allowed access to the apple orchard since the spring of 2016.

Jacomowitz said that “formal” talks started early last fall with the Rogers Family and facility Administrator Leonard Hersh. Mitch Rogers now has the ability to pick from the orchard, and the nursing home may give tours of the orchard.

“It’s great for Mitch,” Jacomowitz said. “He gets to expand for his business. It’s great for the community.”

He said the nursing home now has the ability to have tours of a fully-functioning orchard for families in the area, as well as its residents.

Mitch Rogers said everything has being done informally and Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare has been great to work with.

“We really don’t have a contract,” he said.

Rogers said he “would have tried” to approach the county to use the orchard if the property was still a municipal operation. But he said it makes more business sense now that he has his cidery “rolling.”

Fulton County Historian Samantha Hall-Saladino stops by the center occasionally to give public history talks to the residents.

“She comes and does presentations for us,” center Director of Activities Nancy Murphy said Wednesday.

Murphy asked Hall-Saladino to research and eventually present to the facility and the public a history of the orchard. She will be doing that at 7 p.m. Monday in the center’s Activities Room.

Both businesses in this venture are fairly new the last few years.

Rogers’ Cideryard says it uses apples for its cider blended in the most traditional way. Visitors enjoy a fully-stocked tap room offering local products and three ciders on tap, and a rotating tap line. The business is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and from noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays.

Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare residents can request to live in a single room or share a room with another resident. Center residents have a wide range of medical support services available to them, in addition to the physical, occupational and speech therapy, on-site physician and dental services provided.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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