WINCHESTER – The village’s newest McIntosh apple farm, AppleStock Orchard, grew from being an abandoned grove to producing a bumper crop of fruit in just a few years, thanks to the efforts of first-time farmers Josh Mackie and Emily Terziano.
The orchard, located at 1341 Merkley Rd., opened to the public for its second season ever in early September, while an official ribbon-cutting opening took place on Sat., Sept. 30.
Mackie and Terziano moved to the 10-acre farm in 2013, believing there was great potential for restoring the once-operational orchard. However, when they first started pruning and trimming the overgrown property, it proved more difficult than they thought.
“I knew the apple trees were back there, and I always had the idea to eventually create a pick-your-own orchard,” said Mackie, who grew up in Ottawa. “But when we first got here, there were hardly any leaves on the trees – they could’ve been dead for all I knew. There wasn’t a single apple for a couple of years.”
It took some time, education, and a little trial-and-error before the couple finally saw a couple of apples growing on the trees.
Last year was the first year Mackie and Terziano implemented a full spray and integrated pest management program, and were truly intentional about nursing their apple trees into full bloom.
And they were blown away by the results.
“It was such an amazing crop for our first year, we didn’t really expect it,” said Terziano. “We tried hard, but weren’t even able to [sell and use up] 90 per cent of the harvest because we just weren’t ready for how much would grow. We called [Community Food Share], House of Lazarus, and Shepherds of Good Hope, giving away thousands of pounds of apples, and still didn’t put a dent into it…But it was the boost we needed to know we could do this, it was possible.”
There has proven to be a steep learning curve by treading a path into the farming community, and Terziano added the new journey has been both “terrifying and exciting.”
In the past year, other local producers have slowly introduced themselves to the couple as well, creating connections with the farming community.
According to Mackie, this year’s crop of 1,000 apple trees has grown to be bigger, better, and juicier than last year. Eventually, the couple would like to create fresh apple cider as an added product at the orchard.
“We’re a little more prepared this season,” he added. “But we’re still a work in progress.”
The duo also have other full-time jobs – Mackie as an electrician, and Terziano with the Government of Canada – so are relying on the help of their families to keep the operation running smoothly in its first few seasons.
Those wanting to pick apples from AppleStock Orchard can either purchase the baskets at the farm, or bring their own baskets and boxes. The apples can be picked up for 75 cents per pound, no matter how much or how little.
The orchard will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm, with other weekday openings to be announced on their Facebook page in the near future.