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Hello to all from me and my girls

Posted by Tom Kleffman 
Hello to all from me and my girls
December 26, 2016 07:30PM
We are a family from Minnesota that about 10 years ago divorced ourselves as much as we could from the commercial food grid, made what local connections we needed for things we could not do, and started raising as much of our own food as we could.

in the fall of 2015 we purchased a 40 acre piece between the communities of Conucopia and Bayfield Wisconsin, about 4.5 miles south of Lake Superior. It has an interesting micro climate where proximity to the huge body of water means that there are almost never late spring frosts or early fall frosts when there are winds out of the north. Severe cold moving out of the north reaches that area as excessive snowfall with out the severe cold until the lake freezes over (which very seldom happens, but it can). In the years it has, our area has had 8-10' of snowpack on the ground, which means the ground does not even freeze in those circumstances. The area has also never been used for commercial chemical agriculture, or industry other than logging and small farms primarily of pastured animals. There is a long tradition of growing fruit trees, but it is a small enough area geographically, that it truly is a local thing.

Last year I learned a couple of grafting techniques from orchardist David McGreggor, bought rootstock, and started work on apples late winter, Springtime I started digging holes. I planted 235 trees, mostly apples, but also 70 rhubarb crowns and 100+ grape vines.

While working full time 4.5 hours away from the property, home schooling 4 kids, and dealing with a myriad of other issues.

I had contacted a local winery up there which had publicly expressed an interest in any locally sourced wine grapes. Their response back to me was "will you be planting any heirloom cider apples?"

which of course was not a part of the 235 trees I had done, so I started researching them, and found this site which I desperately wanted to participate in after reading in totality, and thank you so much for now including me.

If for some reason you want to read/see what we did/have done, I blog all of it fairly regularly, and have done so for years.


Everything from gardening, hunting, fishing, etc.

Tom Kleffman

Orono Minnesota
Re: Hello to all from me and my girls
December 27, 2016 12:53AM
Hi Tom

Welcome to our Holistic Orchard Network Forum. Your location in Wisconsin sounds like a promising one. We all love to see photos here in the forum, so post up a few on your young trees in the ground.

Cider Apples, especially heirloom cider apples, have been a red hot topic for several years now. There is a well known shortage nationally, and many of the major cider craft houses are contracting with large growers and/or started planting their own blocks several years ago too. Careful not to get caught up in the chasing the dream of the big bucks as it will take you 5-7 years to come online with a new planting and even then many of the heirloom cider apples are not nearly as precocious as many of the market desirable varieties grown on most farms.

Your best bet would be to produce a quality holistic cider apple offering on a local basis for the winery you are talking about or for other craft cider makers to have a solid source for . . . the cider apples, being such a high profile and generally rare item in many parts of the country, might be just the ticket to put your far on the map for other offerings to sell off the farm too.

I think it is great that you have a local winery who is interested in producing cider too. Hats off to them. I am seeing that twist here in California too, but here it is mostly with the craft beer brewing circuit that you see some new hard cider explorations and offerings.

See if you can get with that winery to see exactly what types of cider apples he is looking for. It is possible they have a source already for X and Y, but really are short on Z . . . Therefore your focus might be best on Z. Prices are high for high tannin cider apples right now and I often hear they are in the highest demand. Also, in farming there is always high risk with putting all of your eggs into one basket. So, consider cider apples that can be used for more than one purpose.

Have you seen the 2016 Cider Market Survey? Becoming familiar with the overall cider market will be helpful should you consider seriously focusing on that niche.

Good Fruit Magazine had a nice write up this past summer on Cider Apple Production (with an interview with Steve Wood of Poverty Lane Orchards discussing Cider Apple Shortages)

Good luck Tom and cheers to a successful 2017

Gopher Hill Apples
Zone 8 in California
Re: Hello to all from me and my girls
December 28, 2016 12:27AM
Hello Tom, and welcome. I've had a few conversations with a guy named Jason Fishbach from the Bayfield Co UW Extension. He has helped me out with research about hybrid hazelnuts in the Upper Midwest, something I'm interested in along with my orchard. If you need any info about your plantings, he would probably be happy to help you out, seems like a great guy.

I've been tempted to look into cider apples as well, but I'm just a bit leery that about the time I started producing cider apples the market would become saturated or we get hit with another bad recession (which I fear is coming soon anyway) and they wouldn't be worth much. I'm going to stick with just some great eating desert apples and see what happens.

good luck with your endeavors, hope it works out for you and your family.


Brampton Lake Orchards

Zone 4a Upper Michigan
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