by: Niki Mosier
Memories of childhood apple trees, led Jamie Bjornsen and her late husband to eventually plant 200 trees and start Countryside Orchard. It is located near Lansing, on a small 15 acre “farmette,” with about an acre and a half devoted to the trees and a growing “Wild English Garden.” The garden is complete with blackberries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, gooseberry, grapes, red and black currants, apricots and horseradish. The berries become jams and jellies. Jamie has a state certified kitchen on the farm where in addition to the jams and jellies, they make pies, caramel, carrot cake and fudge in the fall. Jamie learned how to cook and bake from her mother growing up. She is also a full-time photographer, so her biggest challenge is not having enough time with the trees.
Countryside Orchard practices all of the organic growing guidelines but is not certified. Jamie uses the Eco-System of organics to raise the fruits, which means that she plants certain flowers, installs bluebird houses and pulls lots and lots of weeds. She has hands on control of the bugs with the trees, just like her father did, using no spray. The sheep she raises also help with the mowing and the disposal of the rough apples and peelings. The apple shed at the orchard is open weekends in October or you can find them at the Oneota Co-op.
Every single apple from the 200 trees finds a home. The three-pound apples are turned into sauce on-site, the two-pound apples go into pies, cakes or breads and the one-pound apples are for customers. Jamie’s greatest joy is watching the children’s faces light up when they taste the flavor of the apples they pick fresh from the trees.