Pick your own fun at Afton Apple this fall
Imagine having nearly 16,000 trees in your back yard.
That's the case for the Femling family, who own and operate the Afton Apple orchard at South 90th Street, Denmark Township.
The family motto might well be: An apple a day keeps the thoughts of winter at bay.
There are certainly enough of the crisp, sweet fruits to hand as families arrive at the orchard over the next five weeks or so to pick the cream of the crop.
Additional apple-themed fun is on offer over the next two weekends, when the orchard's apple festival will be held.
As well as the regular hay rides, petting zoo, play areas, picking of pumpkins, raspberries and -- of course -- apples, families can watch cider pressing demonstrations, have faces painted, meet Sharky from Underwater Adventure this coming weekend and possibly even pay an early visit to Santa in his Toyland.
It's all part of what owner Cindy Femling calls agritainment -- entertainment with an agricultural twist.
"It's family entertainment, it's being outdoors and enjoying Mother Nature and being able to go out and do something," she said, explaining the appeal of the orchard to families from across the Twin Cities.
As well as the tractor-driven hayrides which drop apple-pickers at different apple varieties around the orchard, more and more visitors are taking a trip over to the orchard's corn maze.
Both educational and hot on the puns (you "corn-tinue" from one phase of the maze to the next, for example), maze guests weave their way around three sections of a 15-acre maze which increases in difficulty and scariness.
This year's theme is the historical figure Johnny Appleseed, who introduced apples to large areas of the U.S. in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
A series of 24 stations dotted around the maze feature questions about Johnny Appleseed, with a prize for anyone who gets all the answers correct.
Femling says the aim is that families will have fun together while learning something with an agricultural flavor -- and hopes that visitors will capture the essence of what her family found when they moved to Afton Apple from Blaine 19 years ago.
"We moved down here as a good way to bring up our kids," she explained. "When the kids were growing up, they always wanted to go to Hastings, to McDonald's or to see a movie, but all their friends wanted to come out here.
"We thought it was a good way to raise our kids and they have grown up with the responsibility."
For more information, visit www.aftonapple.com or call (651) 436-8385.
AFTON APPLE FACTS
Corn maze takes up 15 acres
The orchard works with a company in Utah to design a new pattern each year
It takes two or three staff from the Utah firm a day to cut the new design each year once the corn reaches four to six inches in height
Previous designs include an American Idol theme, cows, pigs, bees and tractors
Orchard grows 13 varieties of apple
Visitors' favorites are honeycrisp and harelson
Source: Afton Apple Orchard