The Wild Raspberry Orchard exists thanks in part to Sylvia Mary Schulz (1903-1996) who grew up in Chicago. Her favorite experience as a child was leaving the city and experiencing farm life. Some of the land for the orchard was bought with funds she left from a life of frugality and hard work and thus the Wild Raspberry Orchard is dedicated to her memory. The orchard is intended to provide people of all ages a chance to get into nature and experience a little about the challenges of organic fruit production in Michigan (very few orchards) commercially done).
The orchard was started with about 20 trees planted in the fall of 1998 and spring of 1999. There are about 80 fruit trees and 30 fruiting vines and bushes. The summer and early fall varieties of apples are harvested for use in making apple butter, pies, and for pies for Harvest Fest, which takes place in October each year. The care of this orchard is mostly completed by volunteers. We have been forced to keep beehives to have pollinators for the trees. It’s our hope that this orchard will provide an opportunity for people to gain or renew their appreciation for the environment and learn about environmentally friendly fruit production.
There are primarily three disease resistant apples (Gold Rush, Enterprise, Jonafree and 40 other apple varieties (many antique). Some trees have grafts with more than one variety. There are several varieties of pears and other more exotic fruit trees like quince, pawpaw, and jujube. The vines or berry bushes include grapes, blueberries, and gooseberries. This orchard was named after the many wild berry canes that were growing on the land before the trees were planted. Apple varieties were selected for their disease-resistant traits (to help make up for the limitations of organic controls) and others due to their distinguished characteristics often only found in antique varieties.
The fruit at this orchard is grown organically—without the use of harmful chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Instead, only botanical, mineral, and biological controls are used, including pheromone disrupters, repellents, wood chips, compost, and natural fertilizers. Use of natural growing techniques and pest controls are kinder on the environment as well as for the health of volunteers spraying, while preventing chemical from entering the food chain.
It is important to understand that sustainable agriculture ecosystem do not eliminate pests, but rather, help limit and control their damage to trees and fruit. As a result, the harvested fruit often needs to be scrubbed to remove some surface fungus (black soot, fly speck, etc.) and often have blemishes left by some of our natural “friends” who also enjoy the fruit. It is not uncommon to find traces of pests and cutting into these apples is advised. The flavor of these apples is one of the attractions and is one reason participants return each year. You are creating a smaller footprint on the earth by eating locally grown fruit grown with little energy.
Every variety of apple tree comes from a graft, since each tree is unique (just like we are). We graft our own trees onto dwarf or semi-dwarf root stock, ones that do not have royalties in place. Proceeds of the sale of trees support the operating costs. We also make available free trees to local (Chicago area) not-for-profit organizations and schools. The varieties that we often have because we think they are good apples or will be glad to take orders to graft are:
Bramley’s Seedling (an antique favorite cooking apple in England)
Cox’s Orange Pippin (an antique apple)
Calville Blanc d’Hiver (a French apple from the 1700’s)
Egremont Russet (an antique variety for cider)
St. Edmund’s Russet (an antique variety for cider)
Winter Banana (believed to be a Johnny Appleseed Chapman apple)
Call for prices and arrangements for pick up at the orchard or in Chicago.