Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Experiencing a Northfield, Minnesota apple orchard October 23, 2019


THE CARNIVAL SCENT of donuts permeated the autumn air as I stepped from the van in the gravel parking lot of Fireside Orchard & Gardens. For years I’ve wanted to visit this Northfield area orchard and try the fresh-from-the-fryer apple cinnamon donuts. Apples were secondary to this first-ever visit.


Numerous rose gardens grace the property.


While many of the roses were no longer blooming, I found enough to dip my nose into.


Walking toward the retail store, I spotted this sign.


After stopping to smell a few roses in the frontyard rose garden, I aimed straight for the retail store and the source of that sugary cinnamon scent. The place was busy with people buying bags of apples, cups of apple cider, fudge, caramel apples and those donuts that couldn’t come off the fryer conveyor fast enough. Fireside also offers a lot more foods, including bacon ketchup (not made on-site).


Most of the apple trees we saw, but not all, were picked clean of fruit.


I figured I better sample a few apples first. I tried SnowSweet and Sugar Bee, both new apples to me, and the familiar Honey Crisp. Hands down, Honey Crisp remains my favorite apple, developed right here in Minnesota.


There are lots of apple varieties filling these coolers.


I watched donuts roll off the fryer.


The hardworking young employee.


By the time I’d finished my third apple slice, Randy had already purchased a half dozen of those coveted donuts. We headed out the back door, right behind the kid pushing a cart holding a crate of apples. His job seemed that of keeping apples in stock as I watched him several times hustle between nearby storage building and retail store.


A pond centers the grounds.


Ornamental berries pop color into the landscape.


An overview of the pond looking toward the orchard.


This place was abuzz with people enjoying a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon in rural Minnesota. Fireside is a truly welcoming place with assorted sitting areas, yard games and property open to wandering—from orchard to rose gardens.


Pumpkins aplenty…


Apples aplenty…


Gourds aplenty…


Pumpkins and gourds for sale add to the seasonal appeal.


I considered for a moment asking Randy to take a picture of me by the tractor.


Two parked vintage tractors present fun rural photo ops. This is just a relaxing family-friendly and dog-friendly place that is family-run.


The barn style building design is especially welcoming with covered open air spaces.


Within a half hour drive of the south metro, just 1.5 miles east of Interstate 35 along Minnesota State Highway 19, Fireside Orchard is conveniently-located, easy to find. A fun and beautiful place to visit.


A note posted inside the retail store from a grateful teacher.


As for those apple cinnamon donuts, they were a tad greasy, just as one would expect from a fair-type food. I’m certain I’ll return to Fireside. I love orchards like this that realize folks today want more than just a place to buy apples. They want an experience.

TELL ME: Do you have a favorite apple orchard? If yes, tell me why it’s your favorite.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “Experiencing a Northfield, Minnesota apple orchard”

  1. Apple orchards are definitely an experience these days, aren’t they? The huge ones that offer things for the kiddos to do are so popular but give me a small mom and pop type stand and I am happy. I totally agree with the donut observation–the cider donuts we bought were a tad greasy as well and reminded me of fair food. 🙂

  2. I asked at a winery one time why rose gardens. He stated the health of the roses tells the health of the overall fauna and flora. I do love a good Honey Crisp as well as trying out a donut or two. I miss apple orchards. The one neighbor I babysat for had a hobby apple farm, so did not have to go far for an apple fix. My other favorite apple place is Apple Hill in Placerville, CA (apples, wine, baked goods – oh my!). Happy Exploring – Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  3. What a lovely setting! Thanks for taking us along!

  4. Edward Brian Says:

    My wife and I being recent North Dakota transplants are in the checking everything out stage. We love jumping in our car for Saturday drives between Minnesota and Wisconsin. One day we stumbled upon Fischer Criox Farm Orchard on Highway 21 St Criox Trail where we enjoyed the small retail shop with all the apple related fixn’s. A wonderful surprise for us was Carpenter Nature Center next door. It has wonderful walking trails through thick woods, it was a beautiful walk on a beautiful day.

  5. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    We have an area called Apple Hill, about 1 hour east of us in the Sierra foothills. There are dozens of orchards, wineries and Christmas tree farms. We’ve been there twice this year for “the experience” and the apples and donuts and fudge. Growing up in Owatonna, we used to go to an orchard in Faribault to get apples. I don’t know if is still there, but it too was an experience.

  6. valeriebollinger Says:

    Fireside Orchard had a grand opening this summer to showcase their new building. I’m excited to see it. It’s a great orchard to have close by. I have not been out there yet this season…it’s on our list to go with the grandkids when they come.

  7. In the late 1990s I lived in Pennsylvania. I don’t recall the name of the apple orchard but it was just outside Porterville, PA and in the fall it was a wonderful place to visit. My favorite was their apple cider, warm, spicy sweet and perfect on a blustery fall day.

  8. Signora Sheila Says:

    This brought back many memories of my childhood. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Audrey!

  9. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    I’ve never been to an apple orchard but this looks like fun and food…

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