Location: 2600 Idlewild Road, Sturgeon Bay – follow the signs!
Acreage: Two acres of strawberries, 100 acres of cherries, 2,500 apple trees and 100 acres of additional crops (corn, soybean, wheat, green beans and alfalfa)
Meet your growers: The Sorensen family: Terry, Toni and their three young sons
Terry and Toni both have farming in their blood, and they knew they had careers in farming and agriculture ahead of them when they met while attending the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at UW-River Falls. Toni grew up on a dairy and beef farm in Marathon County, where she experienced the farming way of life and learned about agritourism.
“On my family farm,” Toni said, “we had 10 acres of strawberries. I loved strawberry season – especially the agritourism side of it. I knew I wanted to do something along those lines.” After college, she told Terry she’d move to Door County – where he’s from – if she could grow strawberries, and he happily agreed.
“We’ve had strawberries for 15 seasons now,” she said. “We love to connect people to their food source and, at the same time, teach our kids life skills: things like customer service and giving customers change.”
After buying their home in 2004, they had a “when in Rome” moment. Neither Terry nor Toni had experience with growing cherries, but they knew Door County was known for its fruit orchards and thought they might as well embrace it. The Sorensens now sell pick-your-own tart and sweet cherries that bring in crowds of visitors each season.
“It’s like a mecca,” Toni said. “People come from all over the place, and it’s really great to see multiple generations of people visit. It’s awesome that we’ve become an annual part of many families’ trips.”
They also sell pre-picked fruit at their self-serve farmstand, which is open from early July – when strawberries come into season – through October, until all the apples and pumpkins are harvested. In addition to the fruit, a retired neighbor with a green thumb also grows fresh produce and sells it through the farmstand between the fruit harvests.
The Sorensens like to eat their fruit freshly picked because, Toni said, by the time they’re done harvesting, they don’t have much energy left for baking. But when she does find the energy, she likes using cherries in dump cake – “It looks like more effort than it is” – and in all of the classic apple recipes such as crumbles, as well as sauces using Cortland apples.
The Sorensens operate as a very family-friendly operation, inviting family members of all ages to participate in the pick-your-own strawberry and cherry harvests (though they don’t currently offer pick-your-own apples). This year they hid “cherry fairies” for kids to find in the orchards to earn a prize. (Spoiler: It was a bubble wand.)
“Visitors can drive into the tart-cherry orchard to set up their own picnic and find their piece of heaven,” Toni said.
And this is right on brand with the influence of the Sorensens’ Nordic heritage on the name of the orchards: “Soren’s” is from their last name, and “Valhalla” refers to paradise or heaven in Norse mythology.