Orchards provide ‘pick-your-own’ experiences

Monday, October 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:55 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Will Waterman, 3, rolled over a pumpkin while his brother Wes, 5, pulled on another to break it from the vine.

The brothers, from Columbia, ran back and forth between their parents during a Sunday afternoon picking pumpkins and apples at Huffstutter Orchards in New Franklin.

“We come out here every year with the kids,” said their mother, Lisa. “It’s just fun. It’s a good memory. Hopefully, it will be something they’ll remember.”

Huffstutter Orchards goes back to an original orchard and dairy in St. Joseph. In 1958, with the creation of an interstate highway, founder Wilbur Weisenborn was forced to close the farm.

His daughter and son-in-law relocated the family business to New Franklin. Weisenborn’s grandson and his wife, Richard and Pamela Huffstutter, manage the orchard.

The farm did not offer customers the option of self-picking their produce until 2000, at which time it opened pick-your-own apple trees and a pumpkin patch.

“We just had a lot of requests,” Pam Huffstutter said.“We’re very family oriented people, and this is a great activity for families to come and do together.”

Huffstutter added that along with family trips to the farm, visitors come from a large region and include older people and college students from Columbia.

In addition to apples and pumpkins, Huffstutter Orchards features peaches, pears, gourds and squash. The family also offers products such as apple butter and cider and sells its produce at local stores at the farmers’ market in Fayette.

The Dossey-Rasmussen Orchard and Binder’s Hilltop Apple and Berry Farm are other pick-your-own orchards that draw visitors from Columbia and surrounding areas.

Binder’s not only sells apples, pumpkins and strawberries, but also offers homemade products such as soaps, breads, and jams. Employees at Binder’s also lead tours during weekdays.

The orchards produce many types of apples at various times of year. Sandy Binder said her farm produces eight varieties, with Gala and Fuji being current favorites.

Although the orchards boast more apple varieties than some of their grocery store competitors, the owners also said they think their products’ freshness is an obvious advantage.

“We have customers tell us they hate to buy the shriveled up apples in the store,” Binder said.

She said they keep their pre-picked apples refrigerated and do not cover them in wax like the fruit sold in stores.

Huffstutter and Binder said their fruit has been ripening about two weeks earlier than in recent years. They attribute this difference to the unusually cool weather and heavy rainfall of the summer.

Traditionally the soil and climate of Missouri make it one of the leading states in apple production, according to MU’s Department of Horticulture. The 3,000 acres of apple trees in Missouri produce about 1.2 million bushels, or 50 million pounds, of apples annually.

The local orchards expect to continue selling produce until the first or second week of November.

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