JENKINS — Jon Stachour has fond memories of spending time as a young boy on his grandparents’ apple orchard in Iowa, even those times when he’d have to go out and pick up rotten apples off the ground as punishment for bad behavior.
The rural Jenkins man, who also works in maintenance at Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point, had always wanted an orchard of his own.
That dream came true when Red Barn Orchard opened for business Aug. 27 at his and his wife Kyle’s rural Jenkins home.
The Stachours planted a test orchard with about two-dozen apple trees at their 128-acre property about nine years ago to find out how well apples would grow there. The apple trees did well. And both Stachours have always enjoyed gardening. So about four or five years ago they planted more than 500-apple trees, or nearly three acres. Many rows of apple trees are now heavy with fruit ready to be picked and each weekend, from now through about mid-October, additional varieties of apples will be ready for harvest.
They carry 15 varieties of apples, including State Fair, Honeycrisp, Snowsweet, Zestar, and two different crabapples, Chestnut and Centennial. The State Fair, Beacon and Hazen apples, as well as crabapples, are now ready to be picked, soon to be followed by the Honeycrisp, Sweet Sixteen and McIntosh in mid-September.
The Stachours were told they would never be able to grow Honeycrisp apples, a Minnesota favorite, in this area but they are doing well, too.
The nearest apple orchards are located near Aitkin and the Staples-Browerville areas, and the Stachours saw a need for a similar venture in the lakes area.
“That’s why we wanted to do this, because there’s nothing like this around here,” said Jon Stachour.
Last year’s hard frost around Mother’s Day killed about 90 percent of the orchard’s blossoms, so they had to wait until this fall to open for customers.
The orchard is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, including this Monday, Labor Day. The Stachours purchased a hand-forged apple press from Washington so visitors can purchase apples and make their own apple cider on site. It takes about 36 apples to make a gallon of fresh cider. It lasts for about two weeks, they said.
They also have a small store where visitors can purchase, among other apple products, local honey from Don Jackson of Pequot Lakes. Four of Jackson’s hives are located next to the orchard and they pollinate the trees. They also sell cider and visitors may also sample the cider and Kyle’s apple pie square bars. The recipes for any apple products, including her bars, are available for anyone who’d like them.
“They are really good,” Kyle Stachour, who owns Kyle’s Salon in Pequot Lakes, said of her bars. “It’s a pie but in a bar. It’s so good.”
Red Barn Orchard has a fire pit — for the cooler fall days ahead — and picnic tables where families can bring a picnic lunch and eat after they pick apples. People may purchase prepicked apples, as well. Their pumpkin patch should be ready in October.
The Stachours use Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, principles in their orchard to keep the bugs away. They closely monitor the orchard for pests so they spray as minimally as possible. This summer they had to spray twice, said Jon Stachour. They keep long grass around the trees, although the rows are mowed, so the bugs stay in the grass and not on the trees, Stachour explained.
Red Barn Orchard is located a mile west of Highway 371 on Lilac Street in Jenkins. The Stachours update their website, www.redbarnorchard.com, with apple availability and other information.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.