Our story has been one big adventure. We are originally from Maryland and Chris has always had an interest in farming, so in 1998 I agreed to give it a try even though I’d hardly done a thing all my life that involved getting dirty or working hard. I expected that Chris would do the farm thing and I would do the “That’s nice, Dear” thing. Little did I know that eventually, our entire family would love the farm equally and we would be equally involved in all the work.
When we came to Northwest Iowa, we had only visited once for an interview (in January!) and we didn’t know a soul here. It was a job opportunity in a place where land prices were considerably lower than those in Maryland, so we jumped in with both feet. We learned quickly that things were different in the Midwest. We bought our 160-acre farm at an auction, something we had never been to before. We moved our house 17 miles from Spirit Lake, also something that was unheard of on the East coast. We settled onto the farm and bought 2 cows and some chickens. The cows’ first day was an adventure–as soon as they were unloaded from the trailer they broke through the fence and took off to explore new territory. Our children grew up on the farm. They joined 4H, where they showed sheep, goats, chickens, horses and many other projects. With practice, we all got better working with livestock, equipment, and the land. We're empty nesters now, but the kids are starting to return to the area after years of adventuring elsewhere. The orchard was Chris' and my "next big thing" when they flew the coop, but we love having them get involved again!
In 2011 we gathered up our courage and made the decision to plant an apple orchard. It had always been our dream to have a farm that was a destination for families who wanted to experience something different. We kept it a secret from everyone for quite a while as we selected our site and prepared the soil. It was 2 years later that we planted 1,000 trees on the north side of the farm and finally shared with our friends and neighbors what we were planning. 2017 was our first year to open the orchard. We offered a corn maze, hay bales to climb and hay rides to the fun of picking delicious apples. In 2018 we planted another 320 trees in new varieties.
2022 was a big year. Business is growing so we took the plunge and began expanding. We added a bakery and hard cidery to the apple barn. Okoboji TWP Ciderworks - our hard cider brand - was born. We also prepared ground to the west of the orchard to gradually double it's size. We planted 600 more trees in 2022 - we've gotten a lot better at that job and managed to do it in only a day and a half. We still appreciated help from friends though!