Made in Idaho: Weiser's Kelley Orchards welcomes visitors for fall apple harvest

Made in Idaho: Weiser's Kelley Orchards welcomes visitors for fall apple harvest
Posted at 8:32 AM, Oct 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-04 10:32:39-04

For more than 30 years the Kelley family has farmed 80 acres of land off Highway 95, halfway between Payette and Weiser.

"I'm a third generation fruit grower from California. My grandfather grew grapefruit, my father grew grapefruit, and I came here to try something different," Ron Kelley explained.

"And I just married into it," his wife Kimi added laughing.

Ron and Kimi own and operate Kelley Orchards. The 35 acres of fruit trees are all open for u-pick.

"We have families that come out and their kids have never seen a fruit tree, and some of the adults have never been around fruit trees either. It's fun to be able to do that and a lot of people seem to appreciate it," Ron said.

Ron first grew fruit commercially, then with changing markets, 13 years ago the Kelley's switched their business to u-pick.

"The markets were challenging for the varieties we were growing. We're sort of a smaller grower so it was really hard to compete with large growers who do it on an industrial scale, so we decided to take a different direction. Kimi would sit out in the peach orchard and let people come and pick. She would weigh and take their money right out in the orchard," Ron said.

Now with their remodeled 100-year-old barn, complete with cold storage, a store, and more, the Kelley's welcome visitors from summer to fall. They're giving families the full harvest experience, picking fresh fruit right off the tree.

The season starts early with pie cherries, then moves on to peaches and nectarines, plums and pluots, apples, pears, and grapes. But long into winter, they're still hard at work. Kelley Orchards' other big business is dried fruit. The fruit is washed, cut, and spread out on trays to dehydrate in the warm fans for hours.

Every Friday the Kelley's load up two pickup trucks with both dried and fresh fruit to sell at the Saturday Boise Farmers Market. You'll find long lines at the Kelley Orchards stand.

"The farmers market has been a really good place for us to try out new products. We've taken a lot of cues from the customers down there who would ask, do you grow this apple or that apple, and we would say no. After hearing it so many times we said, well let's try planting that and see if it can grow here. That really helped to develop our variety of apples that we grow, as well as fill in different fruits for all different seasons," Kimi said.

"Yeah, it's instant feedback at the farmers market. Your customer is right there and they'll tell you what they like and what they don't," Ron added.

The "Made in Idaho" fruit is bringing a little sweetness to the whole community.

"It's been really good for us, and a good opportunity. It's just nice to feel like we're a bigger part of the community," Kimi said.

Right now, u-pick is available for several apple varieties. You can purchases boxes to pick into at the Kelley's barn store, but they encourage you to bring your own from home. Kelley Orchards employees pick the fruit for the farmers market off the tops of the trees, so there's no need for families to worry about climbing a ladder to u-pick.

Kelley Orchards is located at 53 Hill Road near Weiser. The orchards and barn store are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can also find Kelley Orchards at the Boise Farmers Market at 1500 Shoreline Drive, Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.