MORE AND MORE, MINNESOTA apple orchards are growing more than just apples. They are growing memories, meeting public demand for experiences.
Apple Creek Orchard, located in the countryside just northwest of Faribault at 5524 185th Street, is among those producers embracing that trend. Here, in this rural setting, visitors can find not only 21 pre-picked apple varieties—including popular choices like Honeycrisp, Haralson, Zestar, SweeTango, Cortland and the new First Kiss—but also Halloween Town.
That October attraction includes a Haunted Trail Wagon Ride (Friday-Sunday), Haunted Corn Maze and apple slinging.
Last Sunday afternoon, Randy and I popped in for a bag of apples while on a country drive to view the fall colors. We had no idea the orchard had evolved into more than a place to buy local apples…until we pulled into the farmyard. There, next to the aged mammoth barn with fieldstone foundation, I spotted a seasonal display of pumpkins and other décor staged on/aside straw bales. Plus a photo prop.
Rounding the end of the barn, I saw more. Vehicles lined along lawn’s edge near the barn and the multi-purpose poleshed housing Apple Creek Boutique. And up the hill, additional photo staging.
On this glorious autumn afternoon in rural Minnesota, folks clearly arrived here not only for the apples, but also for the experiences. Young families. Grandparents. Couples. Many boarded the Fun Country wagon for a ride through the property. Former orchard owner Dan Abelman steered the Kubota M5-111 tractor pulling the wagon. We chatted with him briefly afterwards. He sold the orchard to Tami and Kevin Theis late this summer and continues to help with the transition. He’s supportive and enthusiastic about the changes the couple has made. And ready, too, to be moving into retirement.
We didn’t go on the Haunted Trail Ride on a wagon named Josephine (my maternal grandmother’s name), but we roamed the grounds. There I found more photo props. Randy prompted me to sit on Hank the Unicorn so he could take, and text, a photo to our 5-year-old granddaughter. Already I was thinking, we need to bring Isabelle and Isaac here next fall.
While they may be a bit young for the 3-acre Haunted Corn Maze, I know they would enjoy the pumpkins, the autumn displays, the photo props…the experience…the time together as a family.
I got sidetracked also by a field of sunflowers, past their prime, but still a visual delight.
Inside the on-site store, tagged Apple Creek Boutique because you’ll find more than fresh apples here, I poked around. There you’ll find local honey, apple juice-infused meat snack sticks and sausage from Odenthal Meats of New Prague, caramel apples, cider, Grandma Eileen’s homemade apple pies, mugs, seasonal décor and much more. But we came for the apples, stashed in a cooler. I opted for a bag of my favorite, Honeycrisp.
In the future, Apple Creek Orchard hopes to offer pick-your-own apples. There are more plans in the works, too. Co-owner Tami Theis, a certified wedding planner, shared that a section of the poleshed will be converted in to an event venue, The Blossom. Also coming in 2022 are homemade pizzas, donuts and cider, plus a wiffle ball field.
I left feeling excited about this new local option for families, and others, to enjoy in rural Rice County. To learn more about apples. And to create memories via the agri entertainment now offered at Apple Creek Orchard.
FYI: Be sure to visit the Apple Creek Orchard website for more information and the orchard’s Facebook page for current updates on activities and offerings.
Other area orchards include Trumps Orchard on Faribault’s east side; Montgomery Orchard, rural Montgomery; and Fireside Orchard & Gardens, rural Northfield. I’ve patronized each of these. What’s offered at each varies, so please visit their websites for details.
© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
I miss doing these types of activities, especially when my nephews were little. Not really a thing here and pretty much the churches host their own pumpkin patches and events. Getting pumpkins at the local warehouse store is not quite the same – ha! Happy Exploring – Adding in the Fun & Play – Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂
I understand why you would miss activities like going to the apple orchard. But at least you have those memories when your nephews were younger. Have a wonderful weekend!
What a wonderful find. We have a ton of apple orchards (hence the Apple Festival in Hendersonville) and with the plethora of orchards comes all of the fun activities as well. It appears that orchards have become mini event centers of sorts and each one is vying for the patronage of eager families. We have only been to one orchard this year and it is a new one that sprouted up within the last year that is super close to us. It was fabulous– complete with a pick your own flowers spot, wagon rides, a huge indoor play area, food trucks, live music and more. It really is a nice place and I hope they are able to make a go of it. A lot of the apples are in short supply this year due to a couple bad freezes in the spring so some of the U Pick options are limited here but you can still have some wonderful experiences.
Thanks for sharing about the apple orchard opportunities in NC. Due to COVID, more than ever people are seeking outdoor events and spaces to have fun. I like the pick your own flowers aspect of the orchard you visited.
Lovely photos, Audrey. Looks like fun
Thank you, Penny. It was fun, always fun to get out in the countryside.