Sometimes I feel so strongly that I am where I need to be; and although those moments of clarity can be fleeting, they are such a gift when they occur. I felt this way one autumn morning as I walked along an overgrown path between gnarled apple trees at Sweetland Orchard. My footsteps rustling the long grass, birds, warm sunshine, dappled light filtering between branches, crisp apples – and that peaceful, happy feeling of finding something wonderful when I didn’t even know that I was searching.
Sweetland Orchard in Webster, MN is a magical place, but creating that experience for visitors is also hard work. And it’s a way of life for Gretchen and Mike Perbix who grow 49 apple varieties here. Some are sold to eat, but many are pressed and crafted into hard and sweet ciders. They have Minnesota favorites like Honeycrisp and Haralson, as well as less common apples like Ginger Gold, Northern Spy and Ruby Jon. And these apples are picked at peak ripeness, so they taste amazing!
Sweetland is open to visitors on weekends in September and October, when you can take a guided tour of the orchard with Gretchen or learn about pressing apples and making hard cider from Mike. There are plenty of apples to taste, as well as apple donuts and Sweetland’s outstanding ciders (which can be found year-round in stores around the Twin Cities). The Perbix’s children, family and friends help welcome visitors, as does their playful border collie Fletcher. A picnic enjoyed in the orchard while sipping Sweetland's hard cider is a perfect way to spend a Minnesota fall day.