Ripe for the Picking
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What first began as only a piece of land has now grown into a spectacular, 60-acre organic orchard on the Wills Family Orchard located west of Adel.
The transformation into a fully-functioning orchard has been a life-long process for Maury and Mary Wills.
“This wasn’t something that happened overnight,” Maury Wills said. “I did my research on how to start an organic orchard and how to maintain it over the years.”
The family’s first batch of apples was sold in 1997 out of their home and slowly expanded to their shed.
“I remember us being really excited when we got our first customer,” Maury Wills said. “At the time we were selling them out of our home, but then we started getting busier and realized that probably wasn’t the best idea.”
Through word of mouth, the Wills have seen their farm grow and now boasts five acres of 15 different organic apple varieties such as Pristine, William’s Pride, Redfree, Zestar, Priscilla, Spartan, Freedom, Liberty, Enterprise, Snowsweet and GoldRush.
In addition to apples, the family’s grow pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers. They also make and sell pies, apple butter, and fruit spreads.
Maintaining 60 acres can be daunting, but the Wills say their goal is to help others unplug for the weekend.
“We want people to come out here and enjoy the country life and escape the city for a while,” Maury Wills said. “We work all year long, but I really find enjoyment in meeting new people and hearing their stories. It’s also nice to see those who are regulars and come year after year.”
A major attraction is the pumpkin patch where people are encouraged to take out a wagon and cut their own pumpkin from the field.
“You really can’t find that experience anywhere else,” Maury Wills said. “Sure, you can take the kids to the grocery store, but you can’t actually cut a pumpkin from the vine in a field. It’s something different to do that kids of all ages enjoy.”
Over the years, the orchard has grown by word of mouth and has seen an upwards of 700-1,000 individuals during one weekend of their apple and pumpkin festival.
“Space really isn’t an issue so people don’t feel like they are being crowded,” Mary Wills said. “We envision more people coming out here as long as we have the space for them.”
Maury Wills agreed and added that his family strives to make the farm authentic to who they are as possible.
“We want to create a welcoming, homey environment for people when they visit us,” Maury Wills said.
Although the family puts in long hours, they said they take time to rest during their off-season.
“We don’t get two days of rest like most people do on weekends,” Maury Wills said. “We rest in the off-season and plan what we want to do and then start pruning early spring.”
Their six children–John, 26, Anna, 24, Dan, 21, Laura, 17, Peter, 14 and Luke, 9–have all played a hand in the development and maintenance of Wills Family Farm.
Wills Family Farm, located at 33130 Panther Creek Road in Adel, will be open Oct. 12-13 and Oct. 19-20 with hours from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information on the orchard, visit www.willsfamilyorchard.com.