Mills Apple Farm has been a landmark between Marine and Grantfork since the 1970’s. Generations of families have visited the farm in the fall to pick apples, pumpkins, take a wagon ride, and purchase one of their famous apple pies.
The Mills family, led by family patriarch Jerry Mills, moved to the farm in 1971. Assisted by his children, Jerry “planted our first trees in 1973 and sold our first apples in 1977.” They started as a pick-your-own orchard, but it wasn’t long before “little old ladies come in and asked if we could pick a few for them. Once we did that, we needed to sort the apples since some of them were not sellable. So, I got a cider press and started making cider. Eventually we got a grading line and starting running apples through that to find those that were able to sell and those for cider.”
From there, the business began to grow. They built their first apple shed, and then a bigger one, which turned into the market. “I wasn’t going to have a market,” Jerry said, “but if you got apples to sell, you got to have a market to sell them in.” They added cold storage for the cider and then begin making a variety of “hand-made on-site” pies, including their famous apple pies. Asked if one thing led to another, Jerry said, “Yes it did!”
Always evolving, this family owned and operated business added pumpkins, cherries, blackberries, and even Christmas trees to go along with the 16 varieties of apples and 14 varieties of peaches available for purchase. Additionally, they have a few animals for families to enjoy. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to preserve the farm atmosphere.”
Operating a business of this magnitude is not without its ups and downs. In May of 2014, their iconic red apple barn was destroyed by fire. In it, they lost most of their equipment and stored goods. Temporary quarters were put in place to service their customers the past few years.
Recently, however, travelers on Pocahontas Road between Marine and Grantfork may have noticed a huge new red building being erected.
Steven Bartlett, lending officer at Bradford National Bank in Marine, has been working with Mills Apple Farm on their new project. Jerry said, “The new building wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Steven.” Bartlett said, “It’s been a great working with the Mills family. Overall, it was a very quick process once it began. We handed Jerry a check when the building was delivered.”
About the new building, Jerry said, “It’s probably bigger than I should have bit off, but I have a philosophy, if you are going to take a big bite, you better chew it. This time we can put everything under cover and keep it secure.”
“The market will encompass a lot of the open space in the new building,” Jerry said. “It will include a bakery, fresh produce, and a meeting room.” Mills Apple Farm has also begun hosting weddings on the property and the new building will be a resource for those as well.
Bartlett said, “Bradford National Bank was honored to be a part of this new project and to work with this landmark business after their setback.”
For more information on Mills Apple Farm, visit www.MillsAppleFarm.com or stop by 11477 Pocahontas Road in Marine mid-July through December. Founded in 1867, Bradford National Bank is ready to assist commercial projects. For further information, contact Bartlett at 618-887-9000 or visit www.BradfordBank.com.