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Growing A Family Business

Phillip Gargiulo, 11, works for his family’s pick-your-own apple orchard, in Warwick, New York. COURTESY MASKER ORCHARDS. DREW WILLIS FOR TIME FOR KIDS

Every Saturday and Sunday this fall, while other kids are sleeping late, Phillip Gargiulo, age 11, will be up at 5 a.m. sweeping floors. It’s hard work, but Phillip’s duty at Masker Orchards isn’t just a job. It’s a family business.

The orchard was founded in 1913 by the Masker family. In 1969, Phillip’s grandfather Victor Ludmerer bought the land with a friend. Ludmerer’s family of three kids and six grandkids (including Phillip) has been running it ever since. Phillip looks forward to keeping the orchard going for 50 more years. He wants to hire his own children to work there one day. “It’s amazing to think of the years of hard work my grandparents and parents put into it,” Phillip says.

Masker Orchards is one of nearly 6 million family-run businesses in the United States. Many people have shopped at a family-owned business, but not everyone gets to grow up in one.

An Early Paycheck

Masker is one of the largest pick-it-yourself apple orchards in New York. It covers 200 acres of land and has 16,000 trees. Masker’s business model depends on customers picking their own apples to fill their bags.

FAMILY AT WORK Phillip’s entire family pitches in at the orchard. His younger sister, Mary Grace, helps her mom in the orchard shop.


Each full bag is priced at $29.95. But with the apple pies, apple cider, and donuts that customers also buy, a carload of people spends an average of $60. One of Phillip’s jobs is to count the items, give customers a total, and take their money. That’s a lot of apples. And a lot of math, too!

Phillip isn’t working alone, of course. He has a 7-year-old sister named Mary Grace. She helps sell the donuts. More than 100 teens also work at the orchard. The Gargiulo kids are paid $15 per hour. Phillip has saved $3,000 so far. He plans to use it to buy a car one day, and to help pay for college. Phillip also spends money on fun things, like the go-kart he bought to drive around in the woods.

Sweet and Sour

HOMEMADE GOODS Jars of fruit preserves and other homemade goods line the shelves of the orchard shop.


Having a family business means more than making money. It also means making sacrifices.

“Growing up, it was good and bad,” says Amy Gargiulo, Phillip’s mom. She’s worked at the orchard since she was 4. “From August to Halloween, I would be busy. In high school, you want to be with your friends.” But that wasn’t possible when she had to work.

FALL TREATS The orchard advertises its cold apple cider, a fall favorite.


Phillip, too, sees both sides. “I’m learning how to run a business,” he says. He admits, though, that some mornings, when his alarm clock goes off, he’d rather be sleeping in or playing baseball with friends. “But I’m learning to do things that I will need for the rest of my life,” he says. “And I’m spending time with my family. I love it.” 

—By Simone Johnson

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