HISTORY OF OUR ORCHARDS
Belltown Hill Orchards is set in the scenic, rolling hills of South Glastonbury. One of Glastonbury's oldest and largest farms, the orchard is still owned and operated by the Preli Family.
Farm Market Today
In 1904, Louis Preli at age 14 emigrated from Northern Italy to South Glastonbury to work with his uncle hewing railroad ties from the giant chestnut trees which once dominated the area. By the age of 20, Louis saved enough money to purchase seven acres of land where the Farm Market and Bakery is now located. Here he made his home, raised a family and grew a variety of crops and livestock for his own use while continuing to make railroad ties. A few years later, several more acres were added atop Belltown Road, which led to East Hampton known as Bell Town, and hence the orchard got its name. This land was all wooded and Louis with some help had to clear it all by hand. Strawberries and peaches were then planted and then sold to wholesale markets. When Louis' son, Donald, was old enough he was able to help plant more fruit trees and as he became an adult the orchards were then passed on to him.
In 1959, Donald married (Donna), and together started a family, raised four children and expanded the orchard. The retail Farm Market was then added in the 1970's occupying one of the original buildings built by Louis and where it is still located today. More acreage was purchased in the 1980's which brought the total acres to 120 of diverse crops. The Pick-Your-Own operation was introduced and they still continued to supply their wholesale accounts. The Preli family all worked together to keep their traditions strong.
In the 1990's the orchards were then passed down again to Donald's sons Don Jr and Michael, the present owners. Many new features were added again to the farm. A wind machine was placed inside the orchard, the 1st in the state, to help prevent frost damage in the spring. A vineyard was planted, "Perelli Vineyards" and named in honor of their Grandma Preli. One of the last projects of the mid-late 90's was the addition of the bakery, tempting the palettes of all with Farm Fresh Baked pastries.
Again the 2000's brought more expansion and changes. Today 155 acres of land are farmed by the Preli brothers, including the former Scaglia Farm which is under preservation by the Connecticut Farmland Trust. Along by their side, Donna is still currently involved in the operation as head baker, their two sisters Dorothy and Joanna managing different areas, their wives and numerous relatives still work to keep the orchard thriving.
As times go by, things change, but over the past 100 years Belltown Hill Orchards has remained a family passionate to grow quality fruit. With farming becoming a fading pastime, we are happy to live on and provide our community with the freshest, most delicious fruit around. We look forward to see what the future brings and hope our family traditions get passed down again to another generation.