by: Niki Mosier
Al Peake knows apples, he has been growing them for almost twenty one years. Al and his late wife Sandra, planted their first apple trees in 1979 roughly twelve miles east of Decorah. It all started when Al made a visit to a “pick your own” orchard and thought he could do it on his farm.
He uses integrated pest management, which means as little pesticide spray as possible and no herbicides on his trees. Most commercial orchards use a band of herbicide around their trees so that the trees do not have to compete with the grass for nutrients and water. Instead, he mows around the trees to avoid using any herbicides.
Al and his crew pack all of the fruit in their own packing house and store the apples in a large home-made walk-in cooler. Al knows that there is a huge difference in eating a tree-ripened apple versus one that has been shipped and stored. All of the Peake’s apples are sold locally, which allows them to be able to pick the apples as they ripen. There are six varieties of apples available each year, Honeycrisp, Cortland, Haralson, Regent, Connell Red and Enterprise. The Peake’s annual harvest of approximately 1,500 bushels gets sold here at the Co-op, at the farmer’s market, Luther College, Fareway and through Grown Locally.
Especially great is the opportunity during mid-September through Thanksgiving when you can head out to Peake’s and gather your own apples. I asked Al what one of his biggest joys is. He told me that nothing beats being out in the orchard on a crisp fall day harvesting a great crop of good apples and tasting a few as he goes.