2004 IDFTA 'Honeycrisp' Tour
Sunday June 20-Tuesday June 22. Headquarters: La Crosse, WI, USA
Headquarters for the summer tour will be at the Days Inn in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The hotel is on French Island in the Mississippi River and is adjacent to the airport.
La Crosse is a beautiful small city nestled along the Mississippi River at the confluence of the Black, La Crosse, and Mississippi Rivers. A sister city, La Crescent, sits across the river in Minnesota. The greater La Crosse area has a population of about 100,000 and is the major metro area of west central Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota. During the summer riverboats ply the murky waters of the Mississippi River, reminders of the days of yesteryear. Shipping on the Mississippi is still a major industry and it is common to see barges moving up and downstream.
In 1680 a group of Frenchmen, under the leadership of Father Louis Hennepin, were the first white persons to view the area where La Crosse now stands. Permanent settlement of the area began in 1841 when Nathan Myrick first built a cabin on Barrons Island and began carrying on trade with the Winnebago Indians. In 1842 Myrick moved to the mainland and laid out the village of La Crosse. The name 'La Crosse' remained after fur traders in the late 1700's saw Indians playing a ball game on the wide prairies east of the river. The game was played with long handled racquets, similar to the game of lacrosse.
Lumber was a major industry in the mid 1800's. The Wisconsin Pineries produced millions of board feet of lumber. Logs or rough sawn boards were floated down the Black River to the Mississippi River where they were assembled into vast rafts and floated to growing cities downstream. Several sawmills operated in La Crosse.
The advent of breweries in La Crosse was an economic boon in the late 1800's and early 1900's as lumbering and shipping declined. Several breweries became significant factors in La Crosse's continued growth. The Gund, Monitor, Bartl, Ziegler and Heileman breweries all were catalysts for the city's economic expansion.
La Crosse is home to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with 8600 students. Viterbo University and the Western Wisconsin Technical College also call La Crosse home.
Wildlife abounds in the area. Bald Eagles can be viewed swooping down to the open water to hook a fish.
La Crosse is easily accessible by air or by car. La Crosse Municipal Airport (LSE) is served by American Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Midwest Airlines with connections from Chicago, Minneapolis or Milwaukee. Interstate 90 runs just north of La Crosse. Participants may find it easier to fly into Minneapolis and drive to La Crosse along US highway 61 that runs along the Mississippi River.
Sunday June 20
7:00 pm Grower panel and discussion about 'Honeycrisp.'
This will be an informal panel discussion with opportunity to ask questions and learn the latest information about Honeycrisp from people who have first-hand knowledge. This meeting will be held at the Days Inn where the meeting will be headquartered.
Monday June 21
Leave Days Inn at 7:45 a.m. South through La Crosse on Hwy 35 and 171 to Gays Mills
Sunrise Orchards. Sunrise Orchards Inc. is a third generation family owned operation growing, packing, and selling apples grown on 240 acres of hills overlooking the Kickapoo Valley. Approximately one-fourth of the production is marketed retail and the remaining crop sold through chain stores. Sunrise specializes in McIntosh, Cortland, and Empire for wholesale. Another twenty cultivars are grown mainly for retail sales including Jonagold, Gala and Golden Supreme. The Teach family has grown Honeycrisp since 1997. So far bitter pit of Honeycrisp has not been a problem and calcium sprays have not been used. Since 1985 all plantings have been at 500 trees or more per acre and are mostly on M.9 or B.9. Due to a concern about vigor, the latest Honeycrisp plantings have been made at 13 X 3 feet with some blocks receiving fertigation. Since the terrain is very steep, all trees are trained to single stakes and are mostly planted on contoured rows.
Shefelbine's Orchard. Shefelbine's Orchard is nestled in a beautiful valley in West Central Wisconsin near Holmen. The orchard was established in 1951 by Doug's parents. In 1970 Doug and Gale purchased the 25 acre orchard and dairy farm. By the 1980's the orchard had grown to 100 acres plus strawberries. Currently Shefelbines grow apples on about 40 acres consisting of about 10 acres of Redcort, McIntosh and other cultivars and about 30 acres of Honeycrisp on B.9, M.9, Mark, M.7, and MM.111. About 30 acres of seedling plots containing about 50,000 trees. Doug has been innovative in tree manipulation to encourage fruiting. We'll see branch bending and chainsaw girdling.
Sacia Orchard. Sacia Orchard is one of the largest orchards in West central Wisconsin with 230 acres of apples, including 32 acres of Honeycrisp. The orchard began in 1898 when Fred Sacia purchased a small farm from his grandfather. This orchard is still owned by the Sacia family. Acquisitions overtime have increased the farm to its present size. Sacia's has two retail locations, but 95% of apple production is sold wholesale. The first 100 trees of Honeycrisp were planted in 1992 on M.7. Between 1993-1996, 10 more acres of Honeycrisp were planted on M.7. In 2000-2001, 20 additional acres of Honeycrisp were planted on four different rootstocks- G.16, G.30, B.9, and Supporter 4. All trees are supported with individual tree stakes.
Dinner- Mondays tour will also include dinner at the Grand Norway srestaurant at Drugan's Castle Mound, located twenty minutes north of LaCrosse, WI. http://www.drugans.com
Tuesday June 22
Maiden Rock Apples. Herdie Baisden and Carol Wiersma are new growers, having planted their first apple trees in 2000. Located on an 80-acre farm, their orchard is designed to serve the retail market. In fact, they opened their "apple boutique" retail store in the village of Stockholm the same year that they planted their first trees. So far, they have about 25 varieties, including Zestar, Senshu, Liberty, and Honeycrisp, planted on mostly dwarfing rootstocks, especially G.16 and Bud 9. In 2003, they planted 1,000 "sleeping-eye" Honeycrisp/Bud 9, along with another 500 Honeycrisp/G.16 and 500 Honeycrisp/Bud 9 trees. These blocks (4 x 15 feet) like most others are trained to a vertical axe. The farm has a rich, silt-loam soil that held moisture even during a recent drought. Herdie, a director and president of the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, is a new member of IDFTA; Carol serves as a director for the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association
Bridal Rock Orchard. Chuck & Judy Bremer own Bridal Rock Orchard. It is located on the bluffs overlooking Lake City, MN and the portion of the Mississippi River known as Lake Pepin. The Bremer family bought the original 200 acres in 1907. The farm evolved from a general livestock farm to a dairy and cash crop farm in 1970 when Chuck and Judy bought it. In 1983 apple trees were planted on 40 acres of the farm and the dairy was phased out. The first plantings were on M.7a at 120 to 200 trees per acre. Haralson, Red Delicious, Cortland, McIntosh, Regent, Fireside, and Paulared were the main cultivars. With the 1991 release of Honeycrisp, 100 trees on M.7a were planted at 12 x 22 and trained as central leaders. In 1992 a block of Honeycrisp were planted on Mark rootstock without support. In 1997-98, 3000 Honeycrisp were planted on B.9 at 7 x 18 supported by angle iron or conduits and an overhead wire. A high tensile wire deer fence protect the block.
Pepin Heights Orchard.
Dennis Courtier, past IDFTA president is the owner of Pepin Heights Orchards, Inc. Pepin Heights is a vertically integrated grower, packer, processor, and broker of fresh apples and juice products based in Lake City, Minnesota. In addition to 300 acres of their own orchards (70 acres of which are Honeycrisp), Pepin Heights packs and sells for over 40 other Honeycrisp growers in four states and one Canadian province. The orchard block we will be visiting has Honeycrisp plantings from the tenth leaf on down, ranging from 518 trees per acre to 670 trees per acre.