By Lizzy Barrett

Recently, I visited Apple Annie’s Orchard in Willcox, Arizona. I interviewed Mandy Kirkendall, the Director of Fun at Apple Annie’s. Apple Annie’s Orchard is a family-run farm where families can come to pick fruits and try out a variety of food.

According to Ms. Kirkendall, Apple Annie’s is a family farming operation that is owned and operated by John and Annie Holcomb as well as their children Matt and Mandy. They wanted to have a commercially harvested crop, but they ended up having an experience to share with others. They began in the early 1980s, when they planted 6000 apple trees. However, in 1986, they decided to sell their apples on a “you-pick” basis. They expanded their variety of fruits during the mid-1980s to other fruits, like peaches and pears, so customers would have more fruit to choose from. They also expanded their activities, with other services from an Orchard Grill to numerous festivals.

Apple Annie’s have been growing cherry trees for seven years, but this is the first year they have had a large crop of fruit from them. Since cherry picking was a huge success, they plan to continue allowing people to pick cherries throughout the years. They grow a variety of cherries, such as Rainier, Lapin, Sweetheart, and Skeena cherries. Rainier is the most popular cherry, with a yellow and a dark pink blush. The best conditions for cherries to grow is high elevation, as well as warm days and cool nights, which make the fruit sweeter. Ms. Kirkendall’s favorite cherries are the Sweetheart, since they get super sweet the longer they hang on the tree. As stated by Good Housekeeping Magazine, they are rich in antioxidants and they can help prevent cancer.

When we arrived at the cherry-picking area, I did not expect to see so many cherries. I was really shocked to see so many cherries in only one row! However, most of the really good cherries were at the top of the tree and we couldn’t reach them. My mom and I attempted lifting each other up but we only managed to only get several cherries. We had an awesome time picking the cherries and we hope we can do it again. The weather at Apple Annie’s was really hot, so it is recommended to have sunscreen and long sleeves or pants. It is also highly recommended to bring lots of water in the summertime. Cherry picking season was only open for about two weeks in June. However, the farm will not open the veggie-picking until July 1.

For my family, it only took about an hour to get to Apple Annie’s. In order to get to the main orchard, go on I-10 East and take exit 340. Turn west onto Ft. Grant Road, then travel 5.5 miles to Apple Annie’s sign and turn right onto Nickels Road. From there, the signs will tell you where to go next.

I recommend going there for any families who love nature or picking fruits. Every time we go there I always have a fun time and I am excited to go again.

Lizzy Barrett is a Vail USD student and freelance reporter contributing to Bear Essential News for Kids® and their News for Kids segments on KVOA TV. She’s also appeared on KNST’s “Money Matters” and KVOI’s “Liberty Watch” radio shows.

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