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An apple a day: Orchards report average harvest

An apple a day: Orchards report average harvest

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Apple season has arrived in Wisconsin, and Sauk County residents and visitors have their pick of dozens of varieties. Local growers reported an average season after last year’s abundance.

“I can’t say it’s like a bumper crop,” said Cindy Stuebs, of Held’s Orchard in La Valle.

Her uncle started the family business about 20 years ago, and today Stuebs runs it with her husband, Rainer.

“Anything’s got to be better than what it was with the drought because we had zero,” she said.

The orchard has about 200 trees and grows McIntosh, Spartan, Red and Golden Delicious, Cortland, Wolf River, Honeygold and other varieties.

Stuebs said this year’s crop has been just right for demand.

“When we’re low in the shed where we sell them out of, we go and we pick some more straight from the trees,” she said.

The orchard, located at S5398A Highway 58 about 3 miles from Highway 33, is open seven days a week and also sells birdhouses, dried gourds, pumpkins and squash.

Stuebs said the public is welcome to come and shop, and people often like to feed an apple or two to the friendly neighbor cattle.

“People think that is the best thing ever to have a cow take an apple,” she said with a laugh.

Alma Gasser of Tower Rock Farmstead Bakery was selling her old-fashioned McIntosh apples Wednesday at the Baraboo Farmers Market.

She sells the apples, grown on the family’s dairy farm, along with her flours, grains and baked goods.

The apple tree on which they are grown is 40 feet tall and yields nearly 2,000 pounds of apples in a season, she said.

“It’s been doing that year after year,” Gasser said of the 70-year-old tree.

There are also four other trees on the farm — two Cortland and two McIntosh, she said. The Cortlands will be picked and ready at the market in a week or so.

“Our Empire tree for some reason took a vacation,” Gasser said. “It didn’t have any blossoms at all this year.” Last year the tree was so loaded that some of its limbs broke.

Gasser sells her edible wares at the farmers’ market on Wednesdays, but the public is welcome to visit the farm, located at S9010 Denzer Road in Prairie du Sac, on Friday afternoons from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Baraboo’s big apple operation has been busy. Betty Thiessen, owner of Ski-Hi Fruit Farm, said the apples were a couple weeks late this year because of the long winter.

“The apples look nice this year,” she said. “It’s an average crop.”

Not many of the orchard’s 50 varieties are ready yet, but a favorite, Honeycrisp, will be available for sale this weekend. Ginger Gold and Paula Red apples are already done for the season, Thiessen said.

Varieties currently available are McIntosh, Cortland, Jonamac and Wolf River.

The retail store, located at E11219A Ski-Hi Road off of Highway 12 in Baraboo, also sells caramel apples, pies, turnovers, apple cider doughnuts, cider, squash and gourds. The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

The orchard opened around Labor Day, and the retail store has even been busy during the week, Thiessen said.

“Fall color is starting to come on, so that brings the people out,” she said.

The orchard, started by Thiessen’s grandfather in 1907, is usually open for about three months during apple season.

Foreman George Merrill said the weather has been just right to give the apples nice color and flavor.

Workers planted about 625 new trees in the spring, including more Honeycrisps, Galas and a variety new to the orchard called Sweet Sixteen. It will be several years before they begin to bear fruit for sale, Thiessen said.

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