A once vacant apple orchard in Winona Lake is now helping the community by feeding the hungry and offering apples to the public. The orchard offers more than a dozen varieties of apples.
Community Apple Orchard, a non-profit organization, restored the orchard three years ago. Since then, fresh fruit has been provided to local food banks in Kosciusko County.
The orchard restoration project started in 2010. The apple orchard was vacant when a group of people, known as Community Apple Orchard Corp., arranged a loan with Grace College. Since then, 19,000 pounds of apples have been harvested, most of which have been donated to local food pantries.
Michael Skipper, the orchard’s director, said 75 percent of the apples are donated to the needy. So far this year, 8,000 pounds of apples have been given away.
Organizations, such as Society of St. Andrew, pick up the apples and take them to local pantries. David McCleary, the state director for Indiana’s Society of St. Andrew, said the apples are just one way to provide healthy, nutritious produce to food pantries in Kosciusko County. More than 6,000 pounds of apples have gone directly to the society so far this year.
McCleary said while apples are good for eating, they can also be used to make applesauce and apple cider for those feeding a family. While most food pantries offer canned produce, fresh produce, such as apples, is premium. “Fresh produce is much more healthy,” he said.
The 6 1/2-acre apple orchard has 860 apples trees with 14 different varieties. Skipper said this has been a good year for apples as 11,000 pounds of have been harvested so far. “This is the most the orchard has produced in eight years,” he said.
Apples may also be purchased by the public. Apples are 25 cents per pound or $10 for a 42-pound bushel, regardless of the kind, said Skipper. “We want this to be for the community,” Skipper said of the apple orchard.
Community Apple Orchard offers a special program allowing the community to adopt apple trees on an annual basis for $10 a tree; groups may also participate. The adopt-a-tree program provides necessary funding and U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved organic pesticide, and people are responsible for caring for their own tree. People may take home 100 percent of the produce from the trees. Hours spent working on the trees will count as discounts on select purchases of other produce.
If the tree doesn’t produce apples, people will have a choice between another tree or a discount toward a purchase or some other produce. People who purchase a tree can gather all the apples they want until the close of the current calendar year.
Apples may be picked by the public between 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, or 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Other produce is available, such as peaches, blueberries and pears, for those who donate manual labor at the orchard. There is a cider press available for those who like apple cider.
Located at the intersection of Pierceton Road (Kings Highway) and Packerton Road, the apple orchard is located one mile east of Winona Lake.