It’s local apple season! We are so lucky here in Wisconsin to have so many wonderful local producers. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Lori Martin of Szczutkowski Brands, LLC. She told me a little more about how she and her family got into the apple business.
Fifteen years ago, Ed and Lori Martin bought a piece of land near Richland Center, Wisconsin, with the idea that it would be a nice getaway from their home in Burlington, Wisconsin. Then Ed was transferred to Atlanta, making weekend getaways much more difficult for them. Looking for a break from the big city, they decided to spend an entire summer there and realized there was no going back.
Fast forward almost ten years, when a conventional apple orchard that bordered their property came up for sale and they decided to make a foray into farming. Both of them had (and still have) other full-time jobs and neither had a background in farming, but they have turned an abandoned conventional orchard into a booming organic apple business.
The orchard took a lot of work at first—the property had been neglected for several years and the trees growing there weren’t cultivated to be grown organically so they took more work to convert. That first year was very labor-intensive, but by the second year, things started to get a lot better and the whole process became a lot more rewarding.
The orchard has also been a great way for the two of them to get involved in the community. Along the way they met a lot of other apple growers and other community members interested in giving advice, helping to trim trees, and pick apples. They also help the local youth with their fundraising—the kids harvest apples for them and the Martins donate to their causes.
Ed and Lori committed early on to growing their apples organically. They both personally value organic and especially locally grown food. They also were concerned about the possible health risks associated with conventional farming chemicals and thought that organic would be the safest option for them and the community they live in.
The Martins are still working with all the original trees that were growing when they bought the place. They will be looking at replanting some of the older trees in the near future, but at the moment they grow:
White juicy flesh that is dense and crisp. Its flavors are mild, balanced, and light.
An excellent eating apple with beautiful red skin and crisp, juicy white flesh, well suited for applesauce, apple butter, or juice.
Outstanding crunch and wonderfully sweet, juicy flesh. Good for bakingor fresh-eating.
An offspring of the McIntosh with similar crisp white flesh and snappy skin. The flavor is sweet, with a nice balance of tart. A great choice for applesauce, juice, or apple butter.
Sweet but very mild flavor. The flesh is juicy and has a light crispness. The skin can be quite tough.
Exceptionally sweet and rich, almost like eating raw sugar cane. Golden Delicious is also a versatile apple, and can be used both for dessert and cooking purposes.
An ideal lunch-box apple, shiny red and does not bruise easily. Empire is a sweet apple with a crisp texture and bright white flesh.
After finding that their apples were quite well received at local tastings, they started working with a gentleman in Viroqua who had a commercial kitchen, developing their now quite popular applesauce. After several tries using single apple varieties, they discovered that more was better when it comes to applesauce. Their current recipe includes every variety of apple they grow. For all the complexity of the many apple flavors blended together, their recipe is as simple as it gets—just apples and water.
Last year, their production had doubled from 2013, but this year, due to a damaged orchard tractor, they are expecting a limited applesauce supply.
During local apple season you can find a variety of their apples in our produce section and their applesauce can be found in the grocery aisles. Make sure to get that applesauce before it sells out this year!