Return to the Orchard

Wilson's Orchard

Wilson’s Orchard

For the third year I’m working as a mapper at Wilson’s Orchard near Iowa City. It is a u-pick operation all about apples and apple culture.

In my 5-6 hour shifts guiding people through the orchard to find what’s ripe and ready to pick, I hear countless stories of why they come, their plans for the apples they pick, and their relationship with America’s second most popular fruit (regrettably bananas are number one).

I work there for the people more than pay, and yesterday spent half of what I earned on ten pounds of Honeycrisp apples, and a bag of mixed varieties to turn into apple crisp and juice. Given the fact our home trees will produce an abundance of apples this year, its not about nourishment. Once one is part of the apple culture it’s hard to get enough.

As I write this post, a pot of apples is steaming on the stove top for sauce. The goal is to use up the first pick of early apples from my trees and mix it with a quart of leftover rhubarb sauce from the spring. If all goes well, I’ll process the result in a water bath, adding more quarts for storage before heading back to the orchard and another shift.

I left the job in the warehouse to spend time with friends selling apples and apple experiences. I started work about four weeks into the season, so this year will be short, maybe six weeks. Some of the people who stop by the orchard are the same ones I saw at the warehouse—tractor ride seekers, apple eaters, and families of all kinds.

Better to spend my time with these folks than at the end of an industrial food supply chain. A place where the apples are grown not far from where they are sold.

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