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LynOaken opens living apple museum

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 September 2013 at 12:00 am

Farm has more than 300 heirloom varieties waiting to be picked

Photos by Tom Rivers – Chris Oakes, orchard manager at LynOaken Farms, holds a Redfield apple, a variety that was developed in 1938. The apple has a red flesh and pink seeds. It’s one of the heirloom varieties in a new U-Pick orchard at the farm.

LynOaken has more than 300 heirloom varieties available in a U-Pick orchard that opened on Sept. 1. The farm believes it is the biggest collection of heirloom varieties available in one location for the public to pick.

MEDINA – More than a century ago, long before Honeycrisp and Empire apples were favorites among apple lovers, Ben Davis was all the rage.

Ben Davis was a popular apple that was tough and could endure being shipped across the ocean in a barrel. That variety faded from the public’s memory and appetite long ago.

A local fruit farm has brought the apple back, as well as about 300 other heirloom varieties, in a new U-Pick orchard on Route 104 in Medina.

LynOaken Farms partnered with a local Amish horticulturist, David Schlabach, to create a living museum of heritage apples. One of the oldest varieties, Winter White Permaine, has 13th-century roots.

“We wanted to show the genetic diversity and history of some of the apples,” said Chris Oakes, orchard manager for LynOaken.

The farm opened the new U-Pick site on Sept. 1. It will be available to the public until Oct. 27. The many apple varieties ripen at different times through the harvest season.

Chris Oakes (pictured) and his father Darrel developed the heirloom orchard with help from local horticulturist David Schlabach.

The farm has 5.5 acres of heirloom apples, plus U-Pick trees full of modern popular varieties, such as Honeycrisp, Jonagold and Empire apples.

Many of the heirloom varieties are smaller with rugged skins, not nearly as shiny as the popular varieties these days. Many of the varieties were grown for their hard cider qualities. They have a bitter taste resembling crab apples.

Some of the old apples are famous, including the Spitzenburg, which was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. He planted 32 of those apple trees at Monticello between 1807 and 1812.

The heirloom apples are a short walk from the Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, which the Oakes family opened in 2008 at 10609 Ridge Rd.

Katie Oakes, who is married to Chris Oakes, is manager of the farm’s new outdoor pavilion which is the base for the U-Pick operation. It also will be used for special events. It was featured during last weekend’s Steampunk Festival.

Besides the new U-Pick site, LynOaken also just opened a new outdoor pavilion and special events center. Chris’s wife Katie is managing that site, where people can grab a wagon to go apple hunting.

The farm is happy to combine its roots as apple growers with its recent adoption of grape-growing and wine-making.

“We’ve come full circle,” said Jonathan Oakes, the winemaker for Leonard Oakes.

The Ridge Road site also has a wine-tasting room and gift shop.

“We’ve tried to make this a destination,” Chris said. “We have a lot of things going on.”