How about them apples?
With about 10,000 trees, Jim’s Apple Farm, which is part of Minnesota's Largest Candy Store near Jordan, boasts 45 varieties of apples.
One orchard is in Sand Creek township and two orchards are in Blakeley township — about five miles from the candy store.
“Right now, our apple crop is very strong, but the Honeycrisp is a little light,” Wagner said. Last year, the Honeycrisp crop was on the heavier side.
Their orchards are separate from the store, and Wagner likes to keep it that way. When his dad, Herbert “Hippy” started, Wagner said there was no such thing as “agritourism” since everyone near Jordan lived on a farm.
“My dad believed that there’s good ground for growing and there’s good ground for selling,” Wagner said. “And they’re not the same place.”
Jim’s Apple Farm uses its apples mostly for caramel apples and au natural. All of its other products are outsourced from other companies such as the 25,000 trees at Minnesota Harvest Orchards. Wagner said they’re just too small to use for other products.
The farm has a newcomer this year — First Kiss — recently developed by the University of Minnesota. Though it won’t be sold this year, as they’re still growing, Jim’s Apple Farm signed a contract with the university to lease its trees for 20 years. They have a similar agreement with their Sweet Tango apples.
Wagner can’t pick his favorite apple as it varies over the course of the season. He did really like the Ambrosia apple, but misfortune hit the lone sapling tree.
“It accidentally got cut down,” Wagner said. “Somebody ran over over it with a lawnmower.”
Jerry Kornder, aka the Soda Guy, likes the Sweet Sixteen apple since it tastes similar to bubble gum.
Twice a year, farmers come together for “apple meetings” where they discuss everything apples, issues and collaborative efforts. In the past the Cataleya moth was a disruptive issue as the moth would lay an egg in the apple.
“It’s kind of gross,” Wagner said.
To solve the issue, Wagner said, farmers spray the female moth scent in the orchard, so when the male moth comes looking for a female moth, he can’t find it. So there’s no mating and no egg laid — all without using any pesticides.
The farm workers start picking apples as early as July.
“As one (variety) falls off, another needs to be picked,” Wagner said. “So when we get into the season, every 96 hours, we have a new variety.”
Growing apple trends
People are looking for more variety in alcohol, Wagner said. Some people looking to brew their own cider come to the store looking for their apples, Kordner said.
“So the apples that you make into these very unique ciders are apples that haven’t been grown in 100 years, and now people are starting to grow them again,” Wagner said.
The apples used for ciders are not really edible because they’re too tart. However, brewers take the juice from the apples and ferment it, changing the flavor.
Back in the early 1800s, John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, planted acres of apple orchards because of the Homestead Act. The apples weren’t necessarily edible, and instead were used to make apple cider, according to the Smithsonian. Cider gained so much popularity that it was preferred to wine, beer, coffee, tea and even water.
Apple cider also gave those on the frontier a safe, stable source of drink since back then water could be filled with dangerous bacteria.
“Transplanted New Englanders on the frontier drank a reported 10.52 ounces of hard cider per day, for comparison, the average American today drinks 20 ounces of water a day,” according to the Smithsonian.
Apple cider has gained popularity over the years, and Wagner himself prefers the hard cider to beer.
The Jordan Independent decided to test out three of Jim’s Apple Farm’s apple products: apple chips from Minnesota Harvest, an apple crisp and of course, fresh apples from Wagner’s apple orchards.
The apple chips have only four ingredients — apples, natural citrus flavoring, sugar and cinnamon. They were crisp, but soft and loaded with flavor.
The crisp was my personal favorite. I decided to be the bigger person and share it my fellow sleep-deprived, hungry reporters on election night. We voted to heat it up in the microwave for about two minutes and haphazardly split it up among us.
It was gooey, and like the chips, packed with flavor. The apples weren’t too mushy and the crumble was actually heavenly.
And last, the fresh apples. I got a variety of Dandy Red and Sunrise. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference taste wise, but both were crisp and a blend of tart and sweet. I was reminded as well that the apples would get sweeter as the season goes on.
And my coworkers loved them, too. I left the bag of apples on my desk and my desk buddy stole about half of them — so I’m guessing she liked them, too.