We're Branching Out - Abbey Farms Apple Orchard to Sprout

When you think of Abbey Farms, it is likely that you don’t think of apple trees. We’re going to change that! We’re laying the foundation for a 20-acre apple orchard, to be grown on the west side of Hart Road. Look for the identifying sign along Hart Road next time you’re in the area. You’ll also see a mound of dirt in the fields, this is where the orchard will take root.

Why Apples?

Adding an apple orchard is part of our long-range growth plan, a plan that is rooted in our history as a Christmas tree farm, but offers diversification to provide alternative income sources. In our previous post you learned how disease can devastate a tree crop, which can cripple revenue. Thus, cultivating other ways to fund the mission of the Marmion Abbey is imperative.

Long-time Abbey Farm patrons have witnessed the addition of the popular Pumpkin Daze, a farm produce stand and The Nagel Emporium. The Abbey Farms Apple Orchard is the latest addition and we’re excited to introduce this newest venture to you!

We’re planning to begin planting in 2018. With newer orchard cultivation practices, you will be able – weather permitting – to harvest in 2021.

Apple Orchard Prep

In the meantime, a lot of soil work is necessary: first is the fill clay, then lots of topsoil with the goal of making this soil better than any around here. The orchard will be well-drained and irrigated to help offset Mother Nature’s weather mood swings. The neighboring houses will offer shelter from windburn for our trees, too.

You’ll quickly see that we’re subscribing to newer orchard practices once we start planting. We’ll purchase dwarf apple trees. And, besides being irrigated, the trees will be trained onto trellises with denser planting than orchards of the past.

What this means for you is that when it comes time to open the orchard for you-pick, it will be easier to navigate the orchard and pick apples – without needing ladders. For us, it means we can take better care of the trees, resulting in healthier trees that bear more apples.

Environmental Benefits

As with our Christmas trees, these trees contribute to a better environment in an urban setting. For instance:

Each apple tree will absorb CO2 and produce about 260 pounds of oxygen a year, about enough for two people for 365 daysThe apple trees are a great source of pollination for our local bee populationApple trees help to absorb runoff water, stopping erosion and preserving topsoilIt will also add to locally-sourced food options for you and your family and many in the surrounding community

Which Apples Should We Plant?

We hope to plant over 20 different varieties of apples – maybe not all the first year, but within the first couple of planting years. With over 2,500 varieties grown in the United States (per the University of Illinois Extension Service), we have lots to choose from!

Are you a fan of Honeycrisp? Or, do you yearn for old-timers such as McIntosh or Cortland? Perhaps you’re a Granny Smith lover. Do you prefer eating apples or cooking apples – or a mix? We have 5,000 or more trees to plant the first year and we hope you’ll share what apples score high on your wish list.

Although we may not be able to plant everyone’s favorite, but we welcome your feedback as to which types of apples you and your family enjoy the most – and why. Let us know by commenting below, telling us on Facebook or tweet Abbey Farms with the hashtag #myfavoriteapple!

Grow Your Memories

Photo courtesy of Tim and Selena Middlestream, Apple Picking 2006. Via Creative Commons licensing.

Photo courtesy of Tim and Selena Middlestream, Apple Picking 2006. Via Creative Commons licensing.

As we grow our apple orchard, we invite you to grow your memories alongside by sponsoring an apple tree. By investing in our orchard, you and your family will not only receive special apple picking privileges, you’ll have the opportunity to give a gift that keeps on giving. (Sorry, we couldn’t help it!)

With your $225 tax-deductible donation, you’ll receive:

Exclusive invitation to a ground-breaking ceremony scheduled in 2018Seasonal summer progress visits to the Apple Orchard for the first three years of tree growthCommemorative plaque that will stay in place for the life of the apple tree (20 – 25 years or more)

You’ll also receive special picking privileges:

Each tree sponsor is entitled to early picking rights off their tree with a complimentary ½ peck of apples included during the first five years. Additional apples will be available for sale at market value.Admission-free access to the Apple Orchard for the first five years for the sponsor’s immediate family (up to 6 people).After early sponsor picking, your tree will be opened to the public for seasonal picking to help create memories for many more families!

Tree Replacement

We all know Mother Nature is not always kind, so if your sponsored tree should die prematurely, we’ll replace your tree or move your plaque to a different, unsponsored tree.

Most of all, we want to ensure that your tree provides delicious apples and photo opportunities for years to come. Christmas cards, perhaps?! Sponsoring a tree can be a way for grandparents to honor a new grandchild or it can serve as a living memorial to a cherished loved one. Imagine children’s faces as you experience the changes in your tree each year.

To plant a seed and grow family memories that are rooted in tradition, visit our online order form, or see a cashier in the Emporium. Sponsorships are limited and make a wonderful Christmas, birthday, wedding or anniversary gift. If you have questions, email us at info@abbeyfarms.info.  We are excited to grow the next branch of Abbey Farms and sincerely thank you for entrusting your family memories with us!

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