Submitted by the Greenville Garden Club…
There were approximately 40 Greenville Garden Club that met at Doll’s Apple Orchard Shed on 9/12/23 and enjoyed a very informative presentation by Scott ,David, and Diana Doll.
David began with the 4 generation family history of the orchard. His Great-Grandfather came to the U.S. first settling for a short time on the East Coast, later a short time in Michigan and then finally came to Bond County Illinois to settle permanently here, near Pocahontas. His Grandpa planted the first apple tree in 1921.
Several members of the family have been involved with the orchard over time. It started with his Grandpa and Grandpa’s brother. Later his Grandpa and his Dad and then even later his older brother and himself and now his son Scott.
He shared various memories. The use of paraffin lined 50 gallon barrels that they repurposed from Florida orange growers for storage of their apple cider. Glass gallon jugs were also repurposed from area restaurants. The restaurants received their soda fountain syrup in these. Dave shared some old photos of his Grandfather and Dad. In one he pointed to a bowl with three coffee cups in it. He related that those cups were routinely used by customers for free samples then replaced into the bowl of water.
In past years they sold their cider to Schutte’s market and Piggly Wiggly stores. His mother was a daughter of the Wasmuth’s who owned the local Piggly Wiggly store. At the peak of the orchard, they had 3000 apple trees. Currently they have around 700 trees. While selling the apples brings a profit, the cider brings a greater profit. The cider is also purchased by wine makers in the area.
Scott Doll shared more recent information on the orchard. He discussed planting 300 new trees in 2012. This ended up being a very bad year to plant the trees. 2012 ended up being a severe draught year for our area. Even though he watered the new trees twice weekly throughout the drought he lost 100 of the trees by season’s end. He ended up ripping out 100 more damaged trees before the new season. Of the trees that remain from that planting, production has never kept pace with trees planted at other times.
Scott also shared that the root systems of their trees are not truly apple tree root systems. They have grafted roots that yield better production from the trees. In recent years, the orchard has produced between 600 to 1600 bushels per year. Production varies because individual trees produce better every other year and also due to weather conditions. Typically, a tree reaches its peak production somewhere between 8 to 15 years. They grow a wide variety of apples, including Golden Delicious, Alluras, Galla, Blondies, Fuji, Ozark Gold, Jonathans (the most popular), Granny Smiths, Red Delicious, and Enterprise. Their trees are all of the Semi Dwarf variety. These trees can all be picked using an 8 foot ladder that is made for picking (a step ladder with a tripod like design) which allows pickers to really get into or become one with the tree. Pickers wear a picking sack with straps over their shoulder holding a bag in front. He advised that shoulders do get sore as the bag is filled.
Early in their history apples were transported to the ice plant in Hillsboro, IL for storage. Later they built their own cooler. Dave advised the perfect method for storage of apples is cooled and at 90% humidity. Coolers are typically around 60%. For best shelf life to store apples in a home refrigerator he suggests in a plastic wrapper with a wet paper towel.
For their current cider production, they continue to use the same apple press that their Grandfather used. It is a 3 person process. Typically, a blend of apple varieties is used to achieve the best taste. Apples are processed through a grinder and then pumped into the press. Through their process they have been able to perfect minimization of sediment in their final product. Approximately 200-250 gallons can be produced per hour. The apple cider is not pasteurized and typically keeps well in the refrigerator for approximately 5 days. The cider also freezes well and tastes the same when fully thawed as it did when it was frozen. Usually, they wrap up their cider production operation before Christmas each year. Bad apples / waste is usually fed to the cows. Dave and his wife and Scott and his wife all hold other jobs aside from the orchard.
Dave and Scott completed their presentation by demonstrating the conveyor sorting process and taking us on a tour through their cooler and store area. Members took advantage of the opportunity to sample and purchase freshly picked apples and fresh cider made earlier that day.
The Garden Club will meet next on Tuesday December 5th at 6:00 pm for their annual Christmas Party. It will be held in the Fellowship Room of the First Baptist Church in Greenville.