The orchard lies along the beautiful Des Moines River Valley, where the orchard grows over 5,000 trees and includes more than 15 varieties of fresh-from-the-tree-picked apples. They also offer sunflowers in summer and continue through autumn with pumpkins.
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The Community Orchard’s History
With three children of their own, the orchard’s new owners, Denny and Emily Stucky, certainly know about family fun. Before buying the Community Orchard from Greg and Bev Baedke in May 2022, Emily would bring the kiddos to play on the Back 40. In fact, throughout the years, the orchard has been a family operation.
It all started in the early 1940s when Dr. Paul Otto and his wife Edna purchased a dairy farm. One day they invited their friend, a horticulture professor, to their farm. They discussed planting some types of apples that would flourish in Iowa, so the idea of The Community Orchard began.
First, the doctor gave apples to his patients. Then the community began knocking on his door, asking to buy apples, and the business grew.
In 1962, Dr. Otto hired Greg’s father, Don, to help in the orchard. As time passed, Don and his wife, Darlene, bought the orchard. Eventually, Greg and Bev Baedke purchased the orchard from his father. In fact, Greg started at the farm as an eight-year-old child, working in the pumpkin patch. So, the Community Orchard has family fun engrained in it.
Today the Community Orchard has grown into four areas: Market Place, Apple Orchard Café, Apple Orchard Home, and the Back 40, a playground. Here’s the perfect itinerary for a family fun day at the orchard.
Community Orchard Overview Tour
Start the day with one of the orchard’s tours, either a tour of the apple orchard or the pumpkin patch. The tours are best suited to groups of 10 or more, so depending on your family size, you may want to gather another family to add to the fun. Call ahead to reserve a time.
The tour is educational, where you’ll learn the inner workings of the orchard. Then, see how they make tasty ciders—beginning with sorting the apples, grading, pressing, and bottling the final product. Finally, the kiddos will love a tour through their bakery, sales room, and large coolers.
After the indoor tour, hop on board their state-of-the-art Pumpkin Cruiser to enjoy festive music on your way to the pumpkin patch. Your guide will discuss the vital role of the worker bee in the orchards and talk about keeping the trees healthy. And, of course, you’ll want to use this opportunity to choose a pumpkin for Halloween.
The Market Place
The Market Place overflows with fantastic food finds and products made fresh in the Apple Orchard Bakery. During the Community Orchard tour, check out the bakery kitchen, where you’ll find a feeling of teamwork as the bakers peel and slice apples, roll out the dough, and pile the apples a mile high in the pie. Then, you’ll reap the benefits of their work in one of their many desserts, including a variety of warm apple pies, apple dumplings, apple turnovers, and apple streusel muffins.
In addition to fresh baked goods and pre-picked apples, the Market Place also offers cider and a variety of Community Orchard-branded grocery items, like marinated mushrooms and pickled carrots. You’ll also find kitchen gadgets and linens rounding out their offerings. You might even want to pick up one of those cute graphic tees for the kids to remind them of their day at the orchard.
Next up is lunch at the Apple Orchard Café.
Apple Orchard Café
If you start your morning when they open at 10:00 a.m., it will be time for lunch after the tours. If you have a group, you may want to call ahead to reserve a table, as lunchtime tends to be busy.
The Apple Orchard Café offers a delightful experience with various soups, salads, sandwiches, and daily specials. They feature their signature soup daily, Creamy Scarecrow Soup, a mix of veggies in a creamy cheese soup, while Chow Mein noodles sprinkled on top represent straw. They serve the soup with an apple strudel muffin. Also, consider their daily specials, where you may find a chicken pot pie with a yummy fruit salad.
They have plenty on offer that the kiddos will find familiar, like their house-made mac and cheese, the country garden dog, and the grilled four cheese sandwiches. And, of course, they’ll discover apple slices on their plate for a healthy treat.
Apple Orchard Home
While the kids play on the Back 40, the adults may want to take turns shopping and supervising the kids. Check out their trendy clothing, one-of-a-kind home décor, and presents at the Apple Orchard Home, a boutique on the upper level.
The Back 40 at Community Orchard
The Back 40 is an exceptional venue that can keep your family busy for the rest of the day. They feature an animal area where you can milk a cow and watch live goats climb and play. The kids can explore everything with wheels, from self-pedaled karts to mighty trikes and cow trains. They’ll love the interaction of the Jumping Pillow, the Farm Tile Slide, Tire Mountain, and play in the playhouse with oversized games.
Community Orchard also features a corn maze for an additional charge. You’ll probably find it best to eat lunch first, as pulling the kids away from all the fun will be difficult, even at the end of the day.
The Community Orchard is open seasonally. You can enjoy lunch daily at the Café and the kids can play on the Back 40 Playground. Please check their website for current hours.
For more fun things to do in Fort Dodge, Iowa, check out:
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While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.