By Kelsey Linden
There are many attributes that make Delano whole.
Undeniably, Apple Jack Orchards has grown with the Delano community, and it has continuously appealed to varieties of people, not just in Delano, but throughout Minnesota.
Like most farming businesses, there was a rough beginning. However, for Kit and Mike Dekarski and Kit’s parents, Jack and Leah Kelly, the beginning of Apple Jack Orchards was never even planned.
In 1983, the family decided to plant 500 apple trees on 50th Street. Yearly, they added more trees down the road. Five or six years later, they had up to 1,000 trees planted. Of course, it takes years to produce the crop from the trees, but gradually, the tree population grew, and before long, it was time to start selling apples.
At this time, the dream orchard that everyone knows and loves was not yet in construction. The very first apples were sold at garage sales.
Laughing, Kit continued, “By the next year, we really got our act together.”
It was then they acquired the property from Clarence Wandersee with hope to get a retail spot to sell the apples. Apple Jack Orchards was first coming to life.
Each year, the place grew in stages. Kit continued, “We just kept adding a little bit each year to the property.”
It was not until the mid-‘90s that the place really started to sprout, yet they continued to add little by little. The latest addition, the restaurant, was added in 2003. Also, they added a second building across the street for strawberries, as well as social activities.
Amazed, Kit said, “It just kind of evolved. We were unlikely people to be farmers. None of us were farmers before, but an apple farm sounded like a romantic notion, and it’s turned out to be a lot of work.”
“We’ve discovered that people around here really like to have a place where they can have a little lunch. We try to accommodate large groups and small groups. It’s called ‘agritainment.’ People want to come to the farm and have it be entertainment,” said Kit.
Some things that Apple Jack Orchards provide include the cow train, pony rides (on the weekends), the apple cannons, animals, and of course, the ever popular corn maze. Kit also brings competition into the orchard with scarecrow contests and pumpkin weighing contests.
What families find appealing about Apple Jack Orchards is that the place is very friendly towards children with numerous activities and fun for the whole family.
Being members of the Apple Grower Association, the Dekarskis and Kellys have received many of their ideas from there to push family time and fun out on the farm.
Although Apple Jack Orchards is known for its apples, Kit has found that many enjoy picking their own strawberries and raspberries in the spring, just as much as the apples in the summer.
The most popular apple is the Honeycrisp apple, but Kit assures that the Zestar! apple is just as tasty.
“Still, as of right now, the Honeycrisp apples outsell all the rest,” Kit said.
Similar to how the restaurant came about, so did the bakery. The apple donuts and cookies have been a hit.
“Honestly, if we all would have just given up our careers and jumped into this, it wouldn’t have been possible. It’s a business that can only be successful over time. Farming in general is tough. Really in the beginning, we worked double hard. Even now, we’re at the mercy of the weather.”
However, Apple Jack Orchards would not be a success without its 75 employees. All work extremely hard during the busy summer months. Whether it’s washing dishes, picking apples, or greeting customers, they do it all.
Apple Jack truly stays alive for all seasons. Once apple season closes, the family begins to prepare for Christmas. Soon, they will bring in their fresh smelling Christmas trees.
In the winter, the Dekarskis keep busy. During the winter months, they do all the pruning on the apple trees. They also do all the ordering for the building and the gift shop. They do several building projects, and they also grow tomatoes in their tomato houses. Although it may seem like a busy schedule, it’s not quite crazy as the summer. They do have their Sundays to relax.
“The community has been so good to us. We just love it. We’re so fortunate that people are so complimentary. It really makes you feel special. It might be a lot of work, but it’s really rewarding. It’s all a blessing, ” said Kit.
Apple Jack Orchards is alive with community spirit throughout the whole year. Even when the snow comes, there is still life at the apple orchard. Kit encourages all to come out and see the place and pick some apples before they are all gone.
Apple Jack’s lunch will also continue on during the winter months for the first time this year. Bring your family and taste a Sloppy Jack with a warm slice of apple pie and freshly made cider. Kit also does consignments for her gift shop.
For more information on events, check out the web site, www.applejackorchards.com, or call (763) 972-6673.