Value Added Agriculture Heads West

Apple Annie's is holding its annual fruit festivals – peaches, pears, watermelons, and apples – starting in late July and extending into September, with fruit-based food, pick-your-own excursions, and harvest samples.

The four-generation family farm and agritourism destination in Willcox, Ariz., started with a 6,000-tree apple orchard in the early 1980s, added peaches, pears, and other fruits, and bought a 125-acre produce farm minutes away in 2003.

"A visit to the orchard and farm is a wonderful family activity," says Mandy Kirkendall, daughter of founders Annie and John Holcomb. "We love to see the excitement of the children as they eat a peach or an apple right off the tree and the sparkle in the eye of a grandfather as he picks a watermelon with his grandchildren."

The 18th annual Peach Mania, weekends July 21 through August 19, starts each morning with an all-you-can-eat peaches-and-pancakes breakfast. A wagon carries visitors to the orchard to pick their own peaches and taste peach pie or peach ice cream. Picked peaches are also for sale. Apple-smoked hamburgers are available for lunch.

The celebration includes pears and apples as they ripen. Apple Annie's 4,700-tree peach orchard has 19 varieties that ripen across the season, from Sunshine to Sweet September. The farm has 7,100 apple trees, 800 Asian pear and 300 cherry.

Watermelon Weekends are the last two weekends in July, with samples and a free melon if you guess the exact weight of your purchase.

The Salsa Fiesta in early August offers samples, recipes, and sale prices on tomatoes, chili peppers, and jalapeños. Next comes the Green Chili Roast with fresh and roasted green chilis and green chili ice cream. Apple Annie's grows eight varieties of chilis.

The Apple Harvest Celebration starting in late August includes a pancake breakfast with apple topping or cider syrup and apple-smoked burgers for lunch. Visitors pick their own apples or Asian pears or buy ready-picked apples as well as apple pies and apple crumb pie ice cream.

Apple Annie's (appleannies.com), invites customers to pick their own fruits and vegetables. The family opened year-round Apple Annie's Orchard Country Store in 2013 with fresh pies, bread, fudge, gourmet jar goods, and gifts.

Other celebrations include a Sweet Corn Extravaganza, Corn Maze, and Pumpkin Festival. The events also benefit the Lupus Foundation of Southern Arizona, March of Dimes, and Youth Haven Ranch, with more than $100,000 donated so far.

Information provided by Apple Annie's Orchard. 


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