An Apple a Day and More at Adrian Orchards
Crisp breezes, leaves turning colors, the aroma of campfires with marshmallows roasting, hay rides, the pumpkin patch, apple cider and caramel apples … it’s time for fall and a visit to Adrian Orchards.
For 91 years, Adrian Orchards, the only orchard in Marion County, has offered the Indianapolis area the freshest apples, peaches, pears, blackberries, melons and a whole range of vegetables. Though not a U-pick orchard, the Adrians have all their produce for sale in their retail store, an iconic red farmhouse-like building.
George J. and Monika Adrian, the third generation of Adrians, now run the orchard, which means that they’re the third generation of Adrians to see to it that a visit to their orchard is more than just a trip to get apples; they make it something special. If selling the freshest produce possible isn’t special enough, the Adrians and their staff make the visit more memorable by offering a little slice of history and nostalgia.
George says, “All orchards are unique in their own way. We all grow fruit, but the difference is in how you present it.” The Adrians educate their customers about how apples are grown and how to store them. Most importantly, says Monika, “We open their eyes about why we must treat the trees so carefully because what they’re seeing on the trees is next year’s crop already.” The Adrians say they also offer tours, educating children during field trips, showing and telling them about their equipment and taking the students through the cider production process.
One of the most special offerings coming from their orchard is their award winning apple cider. Made from the freshest apples available, unpasteurized and unfiltered, Adrian’s apple cider is a pure taste of heaven. George tells me, “Almost every year, at the annual January meeting of statewide growers, our cider has been voted one of the three best apple ciders in the state.” That’s quite an honor coming from a prestigious panel of Purdue Agriculture staff and the state Horticulture Society.
If you’re not convinced yet to make a trip to Adrian Orchards, you have a little time. The orchard is actually open through the fall harvest on through February. Though the first apples are ready for harvest in July and the last in November, the last of the apples can remain in cold storage and be available for sale through February.
Having kept the orchard in the family since 1925, it’s obvious the Adrians have a tremendous passion for growing. At 94 years old, the elder George still has his hand in harvesting. Monika says, “He still likes to dig in the dirt.” The younger Adrian, George J., demonstrated his passion for his work by landing in the Guinness Book of World Records. Back in September 1980, George J. picked over 15,000 pounds of apples in eight hours, making him the fastest apple picker, a record he still holds to this day!
Making world records and harvesting their crops aren’t the only things the Adrians love about the Orchard. George J. and Monika say there are so many reasons they do what they do. “It’s a lot of hard work,” Monika admits, “but the rewards are many. When you see the smiles on a child’s face when they see something neat and their eyes light up, you know it’s worth it.”
The Adrians say they hope families see their visit to the Orchard as more than just a tradition. Monika says, “I hope they also see our message. We want customers to realize family farms are fading. We want to show people how to get back to the roots of the way things used to be by using what’s available to you from the land. We want people to know it’s important to buy local and support your local family farms.”
This year, George and Monika are hosting Harvest Fest 2016 at the Orchard’s Epler Avenue location. Harvest Fest 2016, held Saturday and Sunday, October 1-2, offers a pumpkin patch, mini hayrides, a kids zone, music and plenty of craft and food vendors. Harvest Fest is open Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 12-5 p.m. For more information about the Fest and the Orchard, visit adrianorchards.com.