A Look Inside: Ferguson’s Orchards
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - It’s Fall Family Fun at its finest! Ferguson’s Orchards put passion and preparation into growing the perfect apple and they are ready to share the fruit of their labor with you! We take ‘A Look Inside’ their kitchen to see how the Ferguson’s produce some of their tasty treats that have become a trademark to their family farm.
“One of the things that we knew right when we started (ten years ago), we not only wanted everyone’s experience here to be great but also the actual food and products that they were taking home. So everything from our apples, to our caramel apples to the donuts, it’s real important to us that they are made fresh and you are getting direct from the source, the best fresh (apples) that you can,” says Andy Ferguson.
For the past decade, Ferguson’s five apple orchards have been a destination for families throughout western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. With 30 types of apples to choose from, a corn maze, farm animals, pumpkin patch and more, the Ferguson family opens their operation to the public every fall.
“There’s a lot that goes into growing the perfect apple but then also the perfect fall experience as a family so we put a lot of passion and effort into and the process of growing apples in order to get them really perfect so that they end of ultimately in someone’s refrigerator or one of our delicious caramel apples or apple cider is really time-consuming, it’s really fun and rewarding thing to grow apples and seeing them really in the span of a few months go from a flower into a fully, mature apple, that’s really rewarding getting to see,” adds Ferguson.
It’s that apple cider which is the key ingredient in Ferguson’s mouth-watering cider donuts. So, how popular are those donuts? Last year, 150,000 were made and sold right here on the farm. Because of that high demand, the Ferguson’s built a brand-new kitchen to maximize how many donuts they can make.
“So the donut machine how it works, we start with the batter that has our own secret mix of recipes including our famous apple cider and once the batter is in the hopper here, the plunger basically pushes out that stereotypical donut shape and it’s not until it works itself halfway through the machine as it’s frying on the bottom then you’ll see it flip over and it’s frying the other side. So by the time it gets ejected here it’s basically fully cooked... From there, we have a small staging area and we by hand coat every donut with our cinnamon sugar mix that is really delicious,” explains Ferguson.
Ferguson’s other specialty? Caramel apples. In fact, fifty to sixty-thousand last year alone.
“One of things that we take pride in making all of them by hand. There are machines that do them in the really big facilities but we like the made fresh on the farm daily.”
Andy says it’s their honey crisp apples that provide the tantalizing flavor that appeals to people’s taste buds.
“Whether it’s in cider or eating apples, definitely a mixture of sweet and tart is very popular and that’s why Honey Crisp is one of our most popular because it’s a good blend of sweet and tart, sweet and sour and so when we’re having apple cider made with our apples so we definitely send a variety of Honey Crisp to Cortland to McIntosh and just try to get a few different types in there to blend up well, and ultimately end up in something that’s going to taste good for a lot of people.”
With more than 300,000 apple trees among their five orchards, Ferguson believes the Chippewa Valley offers a haven for apple lovers young and old.
“Overwhelming, people just like having something like this available, not only a place to have fun, spend time with your family and get outside in the fall but also to learn and see where your food is coming from and meet your farmer. It’s really important to people and we’re happy to be here to provide that. Passion for growing things is definitely a necessity for any type of farming with all the different stressors that you deal with, it takes a unique type of person to deal with that and I think one of the most rewarding things for us and our family is in the fall when we’re able to open up to the community, seeing people having fun in our backyard here,” says Ferguson.
And there’s still time to check out Ferguson’s Orchards and try those yummy apple cider donuts and caramel apples. Ferguson’s is open through Sunday, November 7th. 10 am until 6 pm daily.
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