HISTORY OF APPLELAND ORCHARD
Appleland is a family-run apple orchard with interesting history and “vision”. The development of the orchard began in 1946 by a man named George Schroeder. Schroeder was blind at the time he developed and planted the original 70 acre orchard, comprised of 15 different varieties of apples, two types of pears, cherries and plums. When the trees were planted, Schroeder kept record of each individual tree on an index card which remained the system of record until the orchard was sold in 1963 to Stuart Carlson who owned the orchard for a short time. Carlson had a brother who was an investment broker in Chicago and it is believed Carlson purchased the orchard with hopes that oil would be found on the property. No oil, only apples and so the orchard was sold.
In 1966, Shah-Bahram (known as George) and Kaye Espantman purchased the orchard. Espantman too was looking for an investment, but not with hopes of oil, but rather apples. George Espantman came to the United States in 1946 from his home country of Iran. In Iran, George grew up in the city of Tehran. His parents owned a country home which included an orchard on the property. The fond memories of this orchard drew him to the orchard in Belgium, Wisconsin. George and his wife, Kaye, sold their first crop in 1967. Two years later; in 1969, the family began expanding the orchard. Each year additional acres of apples were planted until the orchard “blossomed” from the original 70 acres up to 130 acres.
The orchard was expanded in 1978 beyond its boundaries in Belgium, Wisconsin, when the farm on Highway 57 in the Town of Saukville, Wisconsin was purchased. Approximately 20 additional acres of apples were planted shortly after the purchase of the Saukville farm.
In the meantime, the original apple trees planted by Schroeder were aging and the process of replacement plantings of the big, older trees with dwarf trees began. Modernization and new methods began to take hold. The last original trees were removed in 2014, closing an era of the large apple tree. Additional acreage was planted on Highway 57 in later years, adding more than 17,000 dwarf trees.
In 1984, more acreage was purchased along Highway 57. The property spans one mile along Highway 57 and is available for up to 400 acres at that location.
In 2009 the Appleland Farm Market on Highway 57 was opened. Prior to this, the roadside market resided at the family’s homestead at the orchard property location in Belgium, Wisconsin. Kaye Espantman greeted customers for 42 years in the Sales Room, from 1967 to that location’s closing in 2008. She was a one-person operation for the majority of the time during those years. The Sales Room consisted of a small open hallway where apples were displayed with three walk-in coolers. The Market is now housed in an iconic red building with a green roof with plenty of room for customers to browse through the many varieties of apples along with a wide variety of other products.
Appleland has maintained a wholesale apple business since its early years. In 2011, a new packing facility was built with a new processing line which works with computer controlled cameras. The cameras detect size, color and any flaws in the apples. The apples are individually tracked on the grading system and move along and distributed based upon the camera image. Production increased from 300 boxes a day to nearly 1,000 boxes per day with the new processing line. In 2014 an additional cooler was built to help keep up with the volume of apples produced.
The orchard at present includes 15+ apple varieties, 3 varieties of pears, peaches, plums, cherries, pumpkins and squash. Appleland also produces its own honey.
The orchard continues to be a family run business. George and Kaye are still involved in the orchard business. George greets many of the customers at Appleland Farm Market and helps to suggest different apple varieties, often giving samples to taste. The field and wholesale operation of the orchard was managed for more than twenty years by their son-in-law, Ed Bares, and is now co-owned and managed by their grandsons, Nick and Jacob Bares.