Ask Apple Jack Orchards Manager Mike Dekarski what makes his business so successful and his answer is short and sweet.
“Thirty years of hard work,” he explains.
Dekarski and his wife, Kit, are the full-time managers and former owners of Apple Jack Orchards, located about 30 miles west of the Twin Cities near Delano. "The orchard started in 1983 with an initial planting of 250 trees," Dekarski said. In the 30 years that have passed, the business has expanded and now features more than 10,000 trees and 29 varieties of Minnesota apples.
Apple Jack Orchards also feature pick-your-own fall raspberries, pumpkins and squash. In addition, countless family-friendly activities are available at the orchard, including tractor rides, a hay pyramid, an inflatable jumping pillow, an animal farm, a corn maze and an apple slingshot.
“We like to keep it clean and safe here,” Mike said. “That’s a major part of what we’re all about.”
The Dekarskis recently sold ownership rights of Apple Jack Orchards to Mike and Mary Kahler. The transition has been smooth and both Kit and Mike remain very active in the day-to-day affairs of the business. And business, quite frankly, is booming.
“We can get so crowded here on the weekends there’s a line from that register all the way through the gift shop,” Kit said, as she pointed to a cash register inside the 108 year-old barn that serves as the business’s headquarters along the banks of the Crow River.
Mike said one aspect of running an orchard that appeals to him is the quality of apples grown in Minnesota soil.
“Even if you don’t really like apples, these are just so crisp and so good they’re hard to beat,” he said.
During one autumn harvest, Mike said a young boy was picking apples from a tree at the orchard and his mother explained the child wasn’t a fan of the fruit’s flavor.
“Next thing you know, this youngster is biting into an apple and just loving it," Mike explained.
Honeycrisp apples, by far the most popular variety at Apple Jack Orchards, are coming into prime-picking season as September ends and true fall arrives.
“We work really, really hard for three months and then it comes to close,” Mike said. “I never get to watch a Vikings game before November.”
Apple Jack Orchards is located at 4875 37th St SE near Delano. Their phone number is (763) 972-6673.
Photos via: Maggie Nielsen