Fall is officially upon us. While we won’t partake in haunted houses or Oktoberfest celebrations this year (thanks, coronavirus), we can still hit up some orchards. One of our favorites is the family-run Sweetland Orchard in Webster, 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities.
Mike and Gretchen Perbix grow apples developed by the University of Minnesota, plus heirloom and cider varieties. They also press and ferment their own cider.
As with everything COVID-y, operations are a bit touch-and-go. When the weather is nice, the farmhouse is open Fridays from 3 p.m. to dusk and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to dusk, through November 1.
Communal tastings at the “apple bar” are not happening this year, but reservations can be made in advance for “tasting kits.” When you arrive at the orchard, you’ll be handed an apple kit ($15) and/or hard cider kit ($10) to enjoy in a two-hour block at one of the property’s spaced-out picnic tables or atop your BYO blanket. The apples and cider samples are labeled and include tasting notes. Please note: Reservations for kits must be made at least 24 hours in advance via sweetlandorchard.com.
Folks who arrive at the orchard without a reservation are still permitted to stroll the 20-acre estate and visit with the chickens, pigs, and turkeys. Dogs are welcome, too; just keep ‘em leashed.
In addition to the kits, Sweetland sells cider donuts, apple turnovers, farm bread, sheep milk cheese from Shepherd’s Way Farms, and Odenthal’s jerky and meat sticks. There is no U-pick option at the orchard, but you can always buy pre-picked apples and fresh-pressed cider.
Sweetland makes nine kinds of cider. Our top picks: the brightly acidic Northern Spy, a single-variety cider made exclusively with Northern Spy apples, and sweet-tart Cherry Rhubarb Scrumpy.
If it’s classic apples you’re after, those can be picked up at the orchard any day of the week or at the Linden Hills Farmers Market on Sundays between 11 a.m. and noon. Current offerings include Haralson, Honeycrisp, and Pie Blend. A quarter peck is $10, a half peck $18, and a full peck $32. (Side note: If you’re ordering that many apples, please invite us over for pie.) 🍎🥧 🙏
26205 Fairlawn Ave., Webster, MN; 651-252-4337.