Rhode Island Fresh: Johnston Apple Festival


Appleland Orchard is putting the apples back into the Apple Festival.

And not only just fresh, Rhode Island grown apples. They’ll have gourmet chocolate apples, caramel apples, candied apples, apple cider, apple cider donuts, freshly baked apple pies, cookies, chocolate covered oreos, pops, fudge and more.

For the third straight year, Appleland Orchard-located at 135 Smith Avenue in Greenville-will serve as the official apple supplier for the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce’s 30th annual Apple Festival held at Johnston’s Memorial Park on September 16 and 17.

“My husband, myself, and my family members will come and help out to help this time of year, we’re very blessed that we have such a nice extended family that’s always willing to lend a hand,” said Mary Lou D’Andrea, who along with her husband Joe own and operate Appleland. “My cousin Alex DeNoncour from Johnston is very excited about going to the Apple Festival with our booth, and he’s said he’s willing to do it every year.”

The D’Andrea’s farm stand in Greenville occupies three acres and includes their farm store and bakery as well as fruit trees. They also own about 40 acres in Glocester, where most of the farming occurs. Customers can also experience the fun of picking their own apples and peaches at Appleland. They also sell locally produced honey, jams and maple syrup.

“This has been really good for us, we’re all very excited,” said Mary Lou about the Apple Festival. “I think it enhances our farm stand. Having new customers get to know us, old customers who forgot their way get reacquainted with us. I think its and enhancement, and it’s nice because whoever goes to the festival it’s just a happy event.”

Appleland’s stand opens in August and continues straight on until Christmas Eve - depending on if the Patriots are playing- said Mary Lou. Just prior to the holidays, they transition to Christmas trees, wreaths and gifts. The rest of the year they tend to their orchards and farmland in preparation for harvest. Right now the family is focusing on all the things that make fall in New England special.

“From pumpkins, peaches, pears, mums and of course apples. September and October we’re doing apples, pumpkins and mums, corn stalks and straw, and we stay very busy,” said Mary Lou. “This is just the very beginning, by next week we’ll be in full force.”

At their stand, the family also presses their own apples for their secret cider recipe.

“I think we’re the only people who don’t pasteurize. We do this 100 percent pure, we don’t pasteurize it’s just the old fashioned way,” said Mary Lou. “It’s really, really good for you and full of vitamins. It’s also great for our homemade apple cider donuts.

The D’Andreas are the third generation of the family to run the farm, and have seen much over time. While farmers this year had a tough growing season with an unusually wet spring and summer, combined with pests such as the winter and gypsy moth, Appleland has so far successfully adjusted to changing environmental conditions.

“It depends on what’s grown. The apples and peaches were fine this year. I think that everything is different now. We haven’t had a year in a long time that’s been traditional,” said Mary Lou. “I think we’ve seen that all over the country, things are growing at different rates. I think the untraditional has become traditional, it shakes us up a bit and gets us prepared.”

Appleland grows a laundry list of apples that they’ll harvest throughout the season as they ripen. From Paula Red, Gravenstein, Ginger Gold, Gala, McIntosh, Cortland, Honey Crisp, and more, they have an apple for almost every occasion.

“They’re all different. Truly, I think that every apple is unbelievable during its peak time. Macintosh will probably remain a local favorite,” said Mary Lou.

While kids and kids at heart love the sweet treats the D’Andrea’s provide, adults may find a more grown up treat with Appleland’s wines, which are available at the stand.

“We started making wines in the 70s. We started with hard cider and then moved to wines. It’s a dry white made from apples, it’s really good,” said Mary Lou. “All of this local wine is really becoming very popular. People are really coming out to local areas and stores, this next generation is very into it.”

Those wishing to get their apple fix are encouraged to visit this weekend’s Apple Festival, which will run from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Johnston Memorial Park. Admission is free, and local vendors from throughout the state will be attending.

“To keep it local keeps you healthier, local will always be better,” said Mary Lou.