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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Dane County Farmers' Market: Weston's Antique Apple Orchard

Credit:Michael Zydowicz

As a third-generation orchard owner, Ken Weston has been involved with apples all his life. In 1932, his grandfather Harvey bought a dairy farm in New Berlin, which, like most dairy farms at the time, had a small orchard. He rented out the small apple patch to local farmers for several years before eventually deciding to expand it into a full-fledged orchard. When Harvey died, the orchard was passed on to Weston's mother.

Ken Weston grew up on the orchard, but remained connected to the farm even after going away to college to study math. He became a mathematics professor, teaching at Notre Dame and a university in Australia before settling down at UW-Parkside, where he was a member of the faculty for nearly 25 years. He retired in 1994, and subsequently over the day-to-day management of the family concern, Weston's Antique Apple Orchard.

If Weston thought he was going to relax after retirement, he was quite mistaken; the orchard he had just inherited was in rough condition. He started investing his retirement funds and the orchard's profits towards improving the quality and variety of apples. He got a very welcome funding boost when the farm was added to the Prospect Hill Historic District as a prime example of farming in the early 20th Century. It was also listed on the National Register of Rural Historic Landscapes.

Today, Weston's Antique Apple Orchard boasts well over 100 varieties of apples on 16 acres of land. Some 98% of the apples are heirloom varieties not commercially grown on a large scale. Some rare varieties include the very large Tompkins County King, and Old Church, a Wisconsin original grown exclusively at the orchard. Weston's has been selling at the Dane County Farmers' Market for nearly 40 years; its stand is currently located on West Mifflin Street.

The Daily Page: What is the most popular apple you sell at the market?
Weston: They are actually all pretty popular. Different apples appeal to different people, so I wouldn't say there is any clear favorite. If you ask me, though, Kind David is the absolute best.

How did you collect all of your apple varieties?
Several of the varieties were already on the orchard when my family bought it. The others we have collected from catalogs and apple-loving friends.

What variety of apple makes the best apple pie?
In my experience, Gravenstein is the finest apple for apple pies. It has a juicy, spicy taste and is great for desserts.

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