Area orchards offer taste of fall

Area orchards offer taste of fall

ABOVE: Apples on a tree at Timberlake Orchard, which is located just outside Fairmont. Both Timberlake and Center Creek Orchard open this weekend.

FAIRMONT– As the end of summer draws near, some fall activities are starting to ramp up. This weekend, Center Creek Orchard and Timberlake Orchard, both located just outside Fairmont, open for their fall seasons.

Timberlake Orchard is located at 176 200th Ave. in rural Fairmont. The orchard has grown–both in size and offerings– since opening back in 1981. Since 2015, it’s been owned the Zietz family.

Jodi Zeitz shared that this weekend, they’ll have Zestar apples to start and Sweet Tango won’t be far behind. Some of the other 17 apple varieties the orchard offers include Gingergold, Macintosh, Cortland, B51 and Honeycrisp.

The apples can be purchased in three pound or five pound bags at the orchard and in the coming weekends at the Fairmont Farmers’ Market.

Aside from the apples, another main feature at Timberlake Orchard is its bakery. Soon after the Zeitzes took over, in 2016, a fully functional commercial kitchen was added which allows the orchard to make baked goods using its own bounty.

“We’re really known for our apple cider donuts because we use our own apple cider, which is not pasteurized. We use that to make our cider donuts,” Jodi explained.

Timberlake makes and sells apple cider, which is available by the gallon or half gallon. Plans are in the works for the orchard to make and sell its own hard apple cider in the future as well.

In addition to the cider donuts, Timberlake offers freshly baked pies. Jodi pointed out even the crust is made from scratch. Varieties include apple, cherry, raspberry, blueberry and cranberry apple. Fresh baked turnovers and apple crisp are also on the menu.

“We do recommend people place an order ahead of time. A lot of times on Saturday, our things go so quick in the morning,” Jodi said.

The pies are especially popular around the holidays and Jodi said it’s especially important to pre-order then.

“That’s a long couple of days leading up to the holidays,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s worth it.”

Jodi said they have also expanded the gift shop area and that it will continue to grow. The gift shop offers coffee mixes, soup mixes, jams, caramels, popcorn, seasonings and a variety of home decor items.

“We have things to do with both Minnesota and Iowa,” Jodi said.

A new item this year is Minnesota Vikings gear and apparel. Jodi said they even have jackets for pets.

“We’re slowly bringing in new things,” Jodi said.

Timberlake Orchard has an outdoor patio area and would like to offer hot coffee so that people can sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee and fresh pastry.

“A few years back some people driving through bought a whole pie and just sat outside and ate it. It was really cool. It’s nice and quiet out here,” Jodi said.

Timberlake Orchard is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

This is the 16th season Karen and Gordy Toupal have owned and operated Center Creek Orchard, located southeast of Fairmont at 663 254th Ave. Karen said they have always opened Labor Day weekend.

These days, Center Creek Orchard offers more than 30 different activities. However, it wasn’t always like that. Karen said they’ve added a few new things each year and this year is no exception.

“This year we put in tug-of-war and some connect-fours. We’re looking for activities that are good to play between parents and kids,” Karen explained.

Along with those new offerings, Center Creek Orchard boasts a large jump pad, 80-foot slide, giant maze, apple sling, barrel rides and more.

While the 30 different activities are always offered, Center Creek Orchard also puts on a few special events.

Annually it hosts a giant pumpkin contest, which will take place Sept. 23 and 24. Last year’s winning pumpkin was over 700 pounds.

“There’s some people that really get into it, which is cool,” Karen said.

Another big draw is helicopter rides, which will be offered the second weekend in October from noon to 5 p.m. and maybe longer if there’s a demand for it.

Fairmont Women of Today annually hosts Eve in the Orchard at Center Creek Orchard. This year’s event will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Of course, in addition to the activities, Center Creek Orchard has pumpkins, apples and hot food for sale.

Karen said that while they’ll have pumpkins ready for this coming weekend, the end of September and early October is when they sell the most pumpkins. She said this was a very good year for apples.

“With it being dryer, we don’t have to worry about fungus and bugs as much as usual.”

Zestar, Sweet Tango, Honeycrisp and Haralson are their main apples.

“We do have some of the new variety, First Kiss, but we don’t have that many yet–the trees are too young to overproduce,” Karen said.

Because of this, they will likely use the First Kiss apple for caramel apples and apple dippers so people can enjoy them.

“They’re a really good apple,” Karen said.

Along with caramel apples, Center Creek offers hamburgers, hotdogs, taco in a boat and nachos. Emma Krumbee’s pie are sold by the slice or whole to take and bake. To drink, apple cider slush is popular and likely will be especially on opening weekend.

“This weekend it’s supposed to be hot so we’ll run the slush machine all day for sure,” Karen said.

Center Creek Orchard is a popular fall destination not just for families in Martin County, but from all over the region. Karen shared that school groups come from Mankato, Mountain Lake, New Ulm and Estherville, IA, to name a few.

“We have a lot of families that say they come down from the cities because the admission is so much less here and we don’t charge per item,” Karen explained.

She knows of one family, half of which comes from Nebraska and the other half which comes from Illinois, that meets in Fairmont each fall and visits Center Creek Orchard.

“We get people from all over,” Karen said.

Center Creek Orchard is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through October.

The cost of admission is $10 per person and 2 and younger is free. For opening weekend they’re offering free mini golf, which is a $3 value, with each admission.

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