Sum of Your Business: Al Peake – Peake Orchards

apples at Peake Orchards

There are few things that feel more “fall” than heading to an apple orchard to get a bite of a fresh, ripe apple, right where its grown.

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It was a visit to an apple orchard that convinced Al Peake to start an orchard of his own, and it was 40 years ago that he planted his first set of apple trees on his farm in rural Waukon, Iowa. Since then, Peake Orchards has seen banner seasons and bummer seasons, but it’s the love of the orchard, working in the fields, and the connection to family that keeps Al excited and inspired to tend the sweet crop year after year.

These days, Peake Orchards has 13 different apple varieties planted, and – once harvested – folks can find them in Decorah at Oneota Community Food Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market. Or throw on a cozy sweater for a fall outing – you can head out to Peake Orchards to grab some yourself! They open to the public weekends starting September 21, from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 12 to 5 pm on Sundays. Catch a hayride on Sundays, from 2 to 4 pm, and mark your calendars for their annual “Fall Festival Sundays” October 6 and October 13 – there’s lots of family fun on the docket.

Read on to learn more about Al’s four decades of apple picking in this issue’s Sum of Your Business Q&A.


Name: Al Peake, Peake Orchards
Age: 62
Years in Business: Planted first trees 1979
Orchard address: 323 Northline Dr. Waukon, Iowa
Visit Peake Orchards on Facebook

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I visited a pick your own orchard in the late 70s up in Minnesota and really thought having an orchard could be something I could really enjoy! So I started planting trees on our family farm. The first planting was 50 trees and then a couple years later 375 trees. That was the point where we were really committed to getting serious about growing apples. Since then we have expanded to well over 1,000 trees.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is the flexibility to try growing methods and varieties that appeal to us and our mission. I also really enjoy working out in the orchard most of the time.

3. How about the worst?

The worst thing about being my own boss is that apple season is a short intense time of year. When early September comes it is, go like crazy, try to get things harvested, washed and sorted and try to keep up with sales. Before you know it the snow is falling and you wonder where the fall went.

The Peake family crew

The Peake family crew, from left: Molly (front), Jeremy, Jodi & Baby Byron, Jo Ann, Cathy, Lea (in front) and Al / All photos courtesy of Peake Orchards

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

The biggest hurdle for me was losing my original apple partner (my wife Sandy) to a brain tumor in 2010. I still had other family to help but Sandy and I had started planning the orchard from the beginning and it was devastating for me to lose her. But, God is good and since then, I met and married my current wife, Cathy, who has been a wonderful partner in the orchard and a wonderful partner as my wife!

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

I would say my biggest mentors have been other apple growers I have met. I have attended many a field day and have learned a ton of things from visiting other growers’ orchards. There have been many great speakers and specialists from universities throughout the country who have presented at these field days and I always leave with some new knowledge and things to try in our orchard. I am also grateful that my parents supported us and helped with the orchard from the very start.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

The only thing I can say is that there is always so much more to learn than you think, when growing apples and marketing of the crop. I planted the first tree 40 years ago (I can’t even believe it’s been that long) and if I said I pretend to know it all, I would not be telling the truth. I think that the day you say you know it all and have done it all, you are setting yourself up for a serious fall. Continuing to learn has kept me young.

Locations where you can find Peake Orchards apples

You can find Peake Orchards apples at the Orchard near Waukon, or in Decorah at Oneota Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

It is very difficult to balance work in the orchard and the rest of my life and many times I have done it very poorly. I always say there is enough work in the orchard to keep me busy 24-7. I am still learning to try to prioritize what’s most important in my life and walk away from the orchard and say that is all I can do for now. With wanting to spend time with family and friends and working at Friest and Assoc. Realtors, as well as the orchard, the balance is difficult.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

I think the thing that keeps an old guy like me inspired is exciting new apple varieties like Honeycrisp (and some other new ones we are growing that nobody has heard about yet), strolling through the orchard and seeing a great crop hanging on the trees, and working together with family and friends (special thanks to Mark and Barbara for all their sorting help) to make the harvest happen. I also look forward to passing on the orchard to my son Jeremy and his wife, Jodi (they could run it on their own at this point, if I wasn’t around). I feel blessed to be able to spend many hours on beautiful fall days, picking a great crop of apples that God has provided!

There are lots of amazing apple orchards in the Driftless – check out some in our neck of the woods here!

Driftless Region Apple Orchards

VISIT AN ORCHARD THIS FALL!

In the mood to explore more of the region’s apple orchards? We put together a list of orchards in the tri-state area (there were a lot more than we realized, but so sorry if we left any out!). Head on out for some sweet, fall fun – but remember: Apple orchards are often open seasonally, or for limited hours. You-pick apple-picking time is mainly August/September through October or so, but there are also some orchards that are open for a longer season, or that have offerings beyond apples. So when planning your trip, please check websites and/or call beforehand to make sure of current hours.

Iowa

Apples on the Avenue
3035 Addison Blvd, Nashua, IA
641-210-5506 • www.applesontheavenue.com

Countryside Orchard
1803 Whitetail Dr, Lansing, IA
563-538-4546

Czipar’s Apple Orchard
8610 US-52, Dubuque, IA
563-582-7476 • cziparsorchards.com

East View Orchard
2355 Union Ave, Fredericksburg, IA
563-238-3871

Peake Orchards
323 N Line Dr, Waukon, IA
Peake Orchards on Facebook

Wisconsin

Cardinal Ridge Orchard
S10958 Hazelnut Road, Spring Green, WI
608-546-2225 • cardinalridgeorchard.weebly.com

Ecker’s Apple Farm
W27062 WI-54, Trempealeau, WI 54661
608-539-2652 • eckersapplefarm.com

Ferguson’s Orchards
N17543 Grover Ln, Galesville, WI
608-539-4239 • www.fergusonsorchard.com

James Flemming Jr Orchard
46054 WI-171, Gays Mills, WI
608-735-4625 • www.flemingorchards.com

Kickapoo Orchard
46490 WI-171, Gays Mills, WI
608-735-4637 • Kickapoo Orchard on Facebook

Maple Ridge Orchard
6675 Maple Ave, Cashton, WI
608-654-5151 • www.mapleridgeorchard.com

Munchkey Apples
175 Drammen Valley Rd, Mt Horeb, WI
608-523-1163 • munchkeyapples.com

Oakwood Fruit Farm
31128 Apple Ridge Rd, Richland Center, WI
608-585-2701 • www.oakwoodfruitfarm.com

Sacia Orchards Apple Market & Bakery
W19461 US-53 #54/93, Galesville, WI
608-582-2119 • www.saciaorchards.com

Shefelbine Orchards & Pumpkin
W4918 County Rd S, Holmen, WI
608-526-3495 • Shefelbine Orchard on Facebook

Shihata Orchard
61549 Limery Rd, Prairie du Chien, WI
608-326-2785 • www.shihataorchard.com

Sunrise Orchards, Inc.
48340 WI-171, Gays Mills, WI
608-735-4645 • www.sunriseapples.com

Sutter’s Ridge Farm
2074 Sutter Dr, Mt Horeb, WI
608-832-6445 • www.suttersridge.com

Turkey Ridge Organic Orchard
50350 Turkey Ridge Rd, Gays Mills, WI
608-735-4660

West Ridge Orchard
52132 WI-171, Gays Mills, WI
608-735-4299 • gaysmillsorchardridge.com

Minnesota

Blossom Hill Orchard & Farm
645 Highway 52 East, Preston, MN
507-765-4486 • www.blossomhillapples.com

Fruit Acres, Inc.
33309 County Hwy 1, La Crescent, MN
507-895-4750

Hoch Orchard & Garden
32553 Forster Rd, La Crescent, MN
507-643-6329 • www.hochorchard.com

Leidel’s Orchard
33114 County Highway 1, La Crescent, MN
507-895-8221

Northwoods Orchard
8018 75th Ave NW, Oronoco, MN
507-280-0591

Pepin Heights Orchard Inc.
70519 243rd Ave, Wabasha, MN
651-565-0267 • pepinheights.com

Pine Tree Apple Orchard
1201 St. Paul Street, Preston, MN
651-429-7202 • www.pinetreeappleorchard.com

Sekapp Orchard
3415 Collegeview Rd E, Rochester, MN
507-282-4544 • sekapporchard.com

Southwind Orchards
45440 Co Rd 12, Dakota, MN
507-643-6255 • southwindorchards.com

Stremcha Orchards
28095 Kerns Rd, Dakota, MN
507-643-6301

Tweite’s Family Farm
1821 Frontier Road SW, Byron, MN
507-365-8035 • tweitesfamilyfarm.com

Van Lin Orchards
4002 T-258, La Crescent, MN
507-895-4492 • Van Lin Orchards on Facebook

Wescott Orchard & Agri Products
28085 County Rd 25, Elgin, MN
507-876-2891 • Wescott Orchard on Facebook

Make It: Paper Boats!

In this paper project, Roxie will show you how to fold origami paper boats… and maybe, like her, you’ll make nearly 100 of them! She entered some of her paper boats into the hobby collections for the Winneshiek County Fair this summer, and she got a first place ribbon! She was so excited. We wanted to show off her skills this fall with the Inspire(d) Paper Project! Use your boats as place cards at Thanksgiving or make a fleet like Roxie did as a fun activity on a cool day!

Supplies:
8.5 x 11 paper sheet (or any rectangle piece of paper of most any size)

1. Take an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and fold it in half.

2. Fold in half again.

3. Open it back up and then, with the crease at the bottom, fold the corners in to the crease (like you’re making a paper airplane).

4. Fold the top piece of excess paper over the folded corners.

5. Flip the paper over and fold the excess corners over the back.

6. Fold the facing corner in as well.

7. Repeat on the other side.

8. Now fold the excess bottom up over the boat (it’ll look like a little hat).

9. Grab the two middle points and open the hat like a pocket – keep opening, then flatten…it’ll be a diamond shape now.

10. With the open pieces facing you, fold the top piece up to the tip.

11. Flip it over and do the same on the opposite side.

12. Open the pocket again (the same way you did before), and make another (now smaller) diamond.

13. With the open part of the diamond facing up, pinch the two pieces on each side of the point.

14. Pull those parts open, and the boat will start to form. It might not open perfectly (like Roxie’s didn’t in the video at the top of the page), but once you pull it should flatten out to make the boat shape. Puff up the middle and adjust the sides to form the boat as you would like it to look, and you’re done! Enjoy!