Since the news Tuesday night that Joe Huber’s Family Farm would hit the auction block in November, people have expressed dismay that a favorite family attraction could shutter, but many also have expressed confusion about what exactly is up for sale.
“We experience this all the time, and now, you are seeing it in spades,” said Jim Epperson, executive director of SoIn Tourism.
Both attractions are based in Starlight and sprouted from the same family tree, but Joe Huber’s Family Farm and Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards are two completely different businesses.
“There has been a great deal of confusion owning partially to the fact that both family names are Huber, and we are both located in close proximity,” said Lise Kruer, market director for Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, adding that some local media has helped fuel confusion.
While there has always been some level of confusion about the distinction between the two, Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards has been bombarded with messages from concerned customers during the past 16 hours or so, she said.
“We have no plans of going anywhere,” Kruer said. “Pumpkins, Christmas trees, wine, it is all still here.”
The business slated to hit the auction block on Saturday, Nov. 17, is Joe Huber’s Family Farm, a 160-plus acre farm known for its restaurant that serves up home cooking and homemade biscuits with apple butter. Joe Huber’s Family Farm, located at 2421 Engle Road, also rents out party barns for events. as well as offers hayrides, pumpkin picking and other family activities.
The owners, the four children of Joe Huber Jr., announced their retirement and plans to sell the farm and restaurant in a news release from New Albany-based auction company Harritt Group. The farm has operated in Starlight for 92 years.
“With bittersweet excitement as they start their new chapter in life, the Joe Huber Family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to everyone that supported them for the past nine decades,” the release states.
Harritt Group declined to say what price Joe Huber’s Family Farm could fetch at auction.
Since the announcement, a GoFundMe account was set up by Jenna Clem, a daughter of Joe Huber III, asking people to donate a collective $1 million to help her and husband buy the farm at auction. The GoFundMe asserts that there is a family divide between those who want to keep the tradition alive and others who are more focused on money.
Kruer said that the team at Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards is still processing the news of the auction.
“We basically heard about it the same way most everyone else did,” she said.
When asked if Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards might be interested in purchasing Joe Huber’s Family Farm, Kruer told Insider Louisville that the business team has very little information about the operations and has not had time to consider it.
In the meantime, Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards’ marketing team has sent emails out to customers and taken to social media to let people know that the farm, winery, vineyards and new distillery located at 19816 Huber Road aren’t going anywhere.
“We are saddened to know that a business that has served our community for many years will no longer be our neighbor. However, all of the Huber Orchard and Winery businesses (including Plantation Hall, our Farm Market and U-pick, Ice Cream Factory, Starlight Distillery, and Farm Park) will continue operations as usual,” Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards posted on Facebook. “This year marks our 175th year as a family farm, and we will continue to serve our guests as we always have.”
Epperson with SoIn Tourism said he was shocked but not surprised by the announcement.
“It’s not unusual for this to happen in a family business,” he said. But “when a business becomes an institution, it certainly makes you stop and think.”
Epperson noted that Starlight, Ind., is still open for business and has events and attractions remaining. While the future of Joe Huber’s Family Farm is uncertain, the tourism bureau is holding out hope that it won’t completely disappear following an ownership change.
“I would hope for a buyer that continues the tradition. Obviously, anybody outside the family might want to put their own spin on it, so a sale can be a hopeful time for innovation,” Epperson said. “We do see Starlight as having potential long-term growth. The setting is just so perfect.”