Jim Koan was born into a family that had been growing apples in Michigan’s Genesee County since the mid-1800s. After completing degree programs in psychology and education at The University of Michigan and beginning a career teaching, Jim and his wife Karen – also an educator – continued working on the farm during their off hours to supplement their income. In 1978, Jim and Karen left their teaching careers to help run the orchard, with Jim ultimately becoming a full partner and then owner of the family’s conventionally managed operation, Almar Orchards.
Over the following years, Jim oversaw the expansion of the farm’s production and storage facilities as well as the orchard itself. Seeking to create a safer farm environment for their children and better food for customers, Jim began applying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices and transitioning the orchard to organic production in the 1980s. Since then, Jim and his family have continued building new areas of the farm business and refining cultivation strategies. Jim also leads periodic workshops to teach others about organic apple growing.
Today, Jim partners with his daughter Monique Lapinski and son Zachary Koan as co-owners to manage orchard operations.