An apple-shaped sign out front beckons visitors with simple instructions: “Raspberries. Honeycrisp. Drive in.” At the end of the gravel drive, a long, red barn stands tall against a bright blue September sky, an open shed door welcoming visitors into a small space lined with coolers, bins and boxes filled with this season’s most coveted red crop.
Welcome to Robertson Orchards of Door County, a 75-acre property less than a half-mile beyond Sturgeon Bay’s city limits. Owned and operated by Kris Robertson, the farm has been a family affair since his Norway-born great-grandfather settled here in 1879.
It is now home to an abundance of nature-born treats: sweet and tart cherries, red and golden raspberries, pears, plums and more than 15 varieties of apples. An “orchard store” helps Kris deliver his autumn bounty to the Door County public, but only after he and a crew of pickers do the heavy work of harvesting the apples that ripen on the trees by late September.
Once inside the store, however, it’s a do-it-yourself affair. Signs guide visitors on their apple-shopping experience, denoting which varieties are best for eating raw (Redfree and Ginger Gold, for example) baking (Cortland, Paula Red) or sauces (McIntosh).
“I usually have them ‘til February, sometimes even into March,” Robertson said of the apple crop in his barn.
Freezers are filled with pitted tart cherries and more coolers are lined with jugs of juice made on site: Honeycrisp blend apple cider, apple-pear juice, and tart and sweetened cherry juice.
There is no cash register or clerk awaiting your final purchases. Just drop your dollar bills into the designated container and enjoy the fruits of Robertson’s labor. Or, come October, the fruits of your own labor as Robertson Orchards prepares to open for its first ever pick-your-own apples season.
Robertson Orchards of Door County is located at 2575 S. Shiloh Road in Sturgeon Bay. For more information, call 920.743.1351 or find them on Facebook.