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A barn outside of one of Hillsdale County's apple orchards. Josephine von Dohlen/Collegian
A barn outside of one of Hillsdale County’s apple orchards. Josephine von Dohlen/Collegian

Each within 30 miles of Hillsdale, two apple orchards provide the perfect fall fix of homemade apple cider, fresh from their own orchards.

Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm sits 20 miles outside Hillsdale and offers a plethora of Fall activ­ities. From Sep­tember through October, each weekend fea­tures a fall fes­tival of wagon rides, a corn maze, a hot dog roast, pumpkin patch, pony rides, and a bar fea­turing live music, accom­panied by their home-made hard ciders.

“We have evolved in the last 60 years from an apple orchard to a des­ti­nation location,” Steve Meckley, second gen­er­ation owner of Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm, said.

Pur­chased in 1956 by Meckley’s parents, Ray and Louise, this over-100-year-old orchard is still thriving today. Over the past two years, they have invested in the expansion of an outdoor wedding venue, and since 2011, they have developed hard ciders and wines.

One of the fea­tured products of Meckley’s Flavor Fruit farm is their homemade hard ciders, offered in flavors such as cherry bomb, a cherry lemonade-fla­vored cider; or Third Coast, a peach-fla­vored cider.

“Our fresh cider is an apple cider with a blend of any­where between four and seven vari­eties of fruit,” Beckley said.

They pride them­selves in not adding preser­v­a­tives to their cider, of which there are a total of seven dif­ferent flavors.

“The cider was amazing. It was more fresh than I expected,” sophomore Kay­Lynne Shaw said, who recently visited the farm for the first time and tasted their cider.

They hope to con­tinue to expand, perhaps even into a U‑pick orchard in the next three to five years, adding to their U‑pick rasp­berry selection in the summer.

Pride and hard work runs through the farm, and Meckley is proudest of the fact that they are family owned.

“I am second gen­er­ation, my children are third, and I look forward to the next 60 years of the orchard,” Meckley said.

Another orchard located just three miles northeast of Hillsdale is Glei’s Orchard and Green­house.

This 300-acre farm that houses 50,000 trees cur­rently grows a variety of 30 apples.

Sarah Maier, the store manager of the Hillsdale location, said that one variety of apple that they offer unique to their farm is the Ambrosia apple.

“We are the only farm East of the Mis­sis­sippi River that has these apples growing right now,” said Maier.

After Owen Glei, founder and former owner of the farm, got a hold of this apple, he ordered several trees before the patent was pulled, and began cul­ti­vating the crop. Just recently, the patent was released, but it will take time before other orchards in the area are able to produce ambrosia apples.

Glei’s offers two vari­eties of fresh cider: an apple variety and an exclu­sively Hon­ey­crisp. Their cider is spe­cially pressed through a UV machine to kill all bac­teria and solidify the taste before jugging it.

Glei’s is a green­house in addition to an orchard, allowing them to offer a large spread of numerous home grown produce, including pumpkins, squash, indian corn, and other fall dec­o­ra­tions.

Glei’s has opened another location in Cold­water, which houses their bakery. It fea­tures homemade donuts and cin­namon rolls.

On Oct. 8, the Hillsdale location of Glei’s will host a cus­tomer appre­ci­ation day fea­turing pony rides, orchard tours, vendors, and huge sales on their apples. All are welcome to attend.

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Josephine von Dohlen
Josephine von Dohlen is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service and the Santa Barbara News-Press. At Hillsdale, she is a member of the Dow Journalism Program and majors in American Studies. Email: jvondohlen@hillsdale.edu