Alpine Ridge Orchard
Getting Back To Our Roots - It's All About The Journey
We are a young family that sat down in 2013 and talked about what we wanted to do for ourselves and our children. After talking, we knew that we wanted our children to be outside in the country and know where their food comes from. For many years before this, we grew pumpkins and had a large garden. So, we decided to take it a step further and grow some apple trees. Why not have a little fun! As my husband always says "did you ever think that you would be doing this."
As we start the orchard, this is who we are and what we do. Brandon works a full time job as a Process Technician and on many days comes home to go and work another fulltime job at the orchard. From March or April to November at the least, we work full time on the orchard. Myself (Jennifer), is a former Veterinary Technician and now stays at home with our children. Most days that is a full time job in itself as most mothers will confess to. I also work on the paperwork side of the orchard along with making some of the stuff that is sold in our store. When I am not taking pictures of all that is being done, I am helping with planting and anything that needs to be done on the orchard. You won't see many pictures of me because I am the one documenting this journey. Our oldest daughter Anala is 5 and in kindergarten. She is a gentle soul who loves all the animals and likes to help make sure that they are taken care of. Her two favorites are a chicken named Dandelion Roadrunner "aka Silkie" and Dreamer the goat. Aspyn is the middle child and is 2. We call her the wild child and needs to be watched with everything. She has a strong personality and wants to do everything herself. We let her do what she can at the orchard with supervision but you might see a few pictures of her on her wild days. Asher is our youngest and is 1 year old. He loves being at the orchard or outside in general and has a very laid back personality. Many people call him "smiley" because he is always a happy boy.
As our title says "we are getting back to our roots and its all about the journey." We are trying to get back to our roots by trying to make a sustainable life for us and our children. Everyday life moves faster and faster and it seems that everyone gets tangled up in the mess and they don't stop. We want to enjoy what we do if the days are going to go by that fast. We also want to see the look on peoples faces as they are taking a moment out of their life to enjoy it.
Since 1987 The Leverenz family has owned the land that the orchard is now on. So we got permission to start the orchard. In January of 2013, we ordered our first trees. In April of 2013, we broke ground and started to plant our first trees. That spring, we planted five hundred trees. Each year we add at least 500 trees if not more. As of fall the of 2016 we have about 1800 trees. Along with planting apple trees we have also planted peach, pear, and cherry trees.
Each year we plant thousands of pumpkin seeds and we usually get a good yield of pumpkins and always say we need to plant more next year because we always sell out. Right now we pick all the pumpkins and bring them to Madison to sell in our front yard. When the orchard is open we will be having a come and pick your own out of the field. We try to carry different varieties that will suit everyone's needs.
Now that our orchard was getting started, we needed to decide what other elements we wanted to add to our farm. At our home, we have chickens and love to eat farm fresh eggs along with knowing where they come from. One thing that you must know about us, is that we do extensive research on everything that goes into our farm. Why I mention this is that when we decided to start the orchard it wasn't that we just ordered random apples or when we decided to have chickens, that we didn't do our research on why it is good to eat eggs that we raised. So, our chickens moved to the farm for open range grazing. We have also added more chickens and are now up to about 30 and will plan to add more. Our oldest daughter loves the chickens and will show anyone how to wrangle a chicken up.
We also talked about what we wanted to offer our customers when we have the apple season. This is how we got started raising meat chickens. We started to raise meat chickens in 2015. Every year we raise and butcher 200-300 chickens. The chickens are pasture raised and are not kept in cages. We do fence in a large area for them to graze and we also have an areal net that is over top of the fenced in area because we do have hawks and don't want the chickens to be attacked. Any animals that are small enough for a hawk to attack are placed under an areal net. They are on a plant based diet that contains no antibiotics and no growth hormones. When we eat chicken we just want to be eating chicken and not all the extras. The butchering is done by us so that we know exactly what happens to our chickens and how they are processed. Everyone enjoys the pasture raised chickens!
In the spring of 2016, we added turkeys to the orchard. Some will be meat turkey's and some we will keep to raise our own turkey's for the following year. The Bourbon Reds are a heritage breed that we will be keeping year after year. We also have the Broad Breasted Bronze that will we will butcher every year. The turkeys are also pasture raised, on an all vegetable diet, and no antibiotics or growth hormones added. When the turkeys are big enough we let them out of there fenced in area to wonder the orchard and eat bugs or to take a dust bath.
April of 2016 is when we decided that the we needed to add goats into our mix of farm animals. Keep in mind we have never owned goats before so this will be a learning experience for us all. And, if anyone wonders you can load pygmy goats into a minivan! We picked up a mother and her son which we adopted. Since the spring was cold, we made a makeshift pen in our garage until it was warm enough to move them to our orchard. My oldest daughter named the mom Rainbow (mama is what she gets called a lot) and the son Lollipop. Our plan was to milk Rainbow to obtain goat milk to make our homemade soap and lotion along with any other goat milk products. Unfortunately, Rainbow did not lead the best of life before she came to live with us and needed to gain our trust first. So, for this year we let her dry up and get use to the farm and to us. The goat milk that we use comes from a trusted source. In August of 2016 we decided that chasing down 2 goats when they got out was not enough work along with the orchard, so we ended up adding in a third baby pygmy goat named Dreamer. In the fall of 2016, Rainbow became very sick and we ended up loosing her after a long fight to save her. Lollipop has taken over protecting Dreamer and has become a very good protector.
As we grow and expand on not just apple trees, pumpkins, vegetables, animals and so on, keep checking back for our latest journey!