Day 7 of my “30 Days of MN Agriculture” is Stonegate Orchard owned and operated by Jason and Jennifer Kirchner. The Kirchners are a young family and are from Slayton. All of their family is involved in working at the orchard–even the kids!
Minnesota is a great place to grow apples thanks to the research done at the University of Minnesota. I personally love apple orchards and I am putting on my bucket list to visit (and probably buy!) the Stonegate Orchard.
Social Media Sites:
Website: Stonegate Orchard
Facebook: Stonegate Orchard
Tell me a little about your farm and/or business?
We own 15 acres of land with 1,900 apple trees on it. There are 16 different varieties of apples we grow and offer. We also have a store where we sell local items besides our apples like honey from local bee keepers, apple pie and caramel apples made with our apples at our local bakery in Slayton, coffee from Left Bank Cafe, art work from local artists, squash and pumpkins grown from a local farmer, jellies, jams and butters, and home decor rustic items.
How long have you farmed or been in business?
This is our third season–second owning the business and land.
Tell me a little about what you grown/raise/produce or service provided.
We have an Orchard and grow apples. We have 16 different varieties: Zestar, SweeTango, Red Baron, Cortland, Wealthy, Honeycrisp, Sweet Sixteen, Snow Sweet, Regent, Red Regent, Honeygold, Haralson, Red Haralson, Chestnut Crab, Fireside, and Connell Red.
Where do you sell or provide services to? Who is your end consumer?
We sell directly to consumers at our Orchard. We have a nice country store with pre-bagged apples or consumers can go out into the Orchard and pick their own apples. We also ship pre-bagged apples to local grocery stores, and send bushels to local schools. At the Orchard every year we give school tours to pre-k through 1st grade students. This past year we had around 300 students visit.
Why do you grow/raise/produce? What went into your decision to do what you do?
We really had a desire to make this adventure a family one. We knew nothing about apples before becoming Orchard owners so it has been a learning process for all of us. The Apple season is at its max in the fall during harvest but all year long there are so many different jobs. That variety brings excitement and like a roller coaster some hard times and some easy times.
Ultimately it is a family business where we can all be together and work together and enjoy the end result together… which is mostly apple pie.
What is one thing no one knows about your farm/business/product that you would like to share?
“Both Jason and I have full time jobs on top of running our Orchard so all year round but especially during harvest our kids help with just about every job. They wake up with us at 5am to make apple deliveries to the schools or stores before our full time jobs start. They sit in the store during the weekends and help customers check out and carry items to their cars. They even help pick apples during the harvest. They would say the worst is picking up sticks after pruning in February/March. It’s hard work but we cherish these moments with them.”
What makes Minnesota the place to farm/grow/raise/produce/service?
Minnesota has the best apples. The University of Minnesota has created some amazing varieties that we have the privilege of growing. Other apples don’t even compare to the flavor of MN grown!