RURAL IOWA CITY— Thursday was the last day of the 2013 u-pick season at Wilson’s Orchard. There were a few cars in the lot, and pumpkins displayed outside the sales barn. Out back, the flatbed truck was loaded with a tall pile of pumice left from apples just pressed for cider. Inside, there were five or six types of apples in the cooler, along with cider, apple turnovers and the numerous items in the gift shop. An employee was positioning apples slices on a dehydrator shelf. There was a sense in the air of counting the hours until closing up shop for the season. 2013 has been a great year for apples.
Stopping on the last day is a habit worth forming. It has the potential of being a personal tradition— the kind we build our lives around. I hope to work at Wilson’s Orchard again next season.
The Gold Rush apples are not in yet. They have parentage of Golden Delicious and were cultivated for their long storage properties, perhaps as long as seven months. It will be the first year we tried them, and it is only one of many varieties sampled this year. I’d say they are delicious, but that would be an apple joke. According to a colleague, the chief apple officer will pick them from the Solon orchard next week, and they will be available for purchase on Nov. 16-17 when the sales barn is open for holiday shopping.
During 2013, Wilson’s Orchard was a local phenomenon. People came from all around the area to pick apples, seeking the fruit, but also family entertainment. Being the mapper, and later in the season, one of four tractor ride drivers, I was part of the show and met people from all over, each with a personal story about what brought them to the orchard. It was great fun, and one of the best work experiences I’ve had since leaving my career in logistics and transportation. The intersection of apples, farming, small business management, customer relations and speaking opportunities hit my sweet spot.
At the end of the season, this unique experience stands out, and hopefully will live long in memory. Lessons learned there will be applied elsewhere in a life on the Iowa prairie in a turbulent world.