Idalou—Just a little bit outside of Lubbock, during the waning months of summer, you’ll find cotton sprouting up from the soil of the high plains getting ready for it’s final harvest—but it’s not the only crop getting ready to cash in for the season.
“This is kind of cotton USA to me. Everywhere you look around us, it’s all cotton,’” said Tucker Crawford, owner and caretaker of The Orchard.
Tucker grew up in Farwell, right on the Texas New Mexico state line.
“This apple actually did fall far from the tree. I’m a lot like my dad, but I took a complete 180.”
His 20 acres in Idalou are part of about 100 that he works with to grow apples right here in Texas. Tucker has a history in agriculture and pursued an Ag Economics degree in college.
“I didn’t really know what to do, but ag’s my background, just growing up in a small town and I loved the program. It really applied to life. I guess that sounds weird, but as far as just being able to relate it to real life, couldn’t have picked a better one for me,” said Tucker.
After college, Tucker spent years in a career in the world of banking. Eventually, Tucker got tuckered out with interest rates and traded it in for green acres.
“I’m ready to be on the farm…At 34 retire. I’m just joking, a long ways from retirement,” he continued, “being out in nature, being out in the trees is something for me, it’s kind of peaceful.”
Since 1982, the little apple orchard near Lubbock has been producing thousands of pounds of produce and their biggest obstacle is the unpredictable Texas weather.
“We started out not realizing the full potential of what the environment was going to bring, but fortunately for us, we were able to go in and make modifications or different growing habits—the way we plant trees, the densities, the direction, things like that,” he said.
From August to October, they harvest all sorts of apple—Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Granny Smith.
“I would be willing to bet that one out of three have never picked an apple off a tree,” said Tucker.
He also is known to let visitors pick and eat an apple out in the field.
“Well, if you eat one, you’re going to buy more” he explained, “if you walked out here and grabbed an apple off the tree and went back in there and got home and ate one you’d be like, ‘should have got more.'”
While we forgot to bring our bucket, Tucker is always finding a way to fill his with ideas on how to make the most of his apples. You know what they say, one rotten apple spoils the whole bunch.
“If it’s a pretty apple we can put in a box, we know we got it sold. If it’s not a pretty apple, we have to figure out where we’re going with it then…” he said, “We’re experimenting with Apple Cider Vinegar, apple cider, hard apple cider, obviously fresh apples, German apple cakes. We make a lot of pies, salsas. You name it—apple butter.”
If spreading a little apple butter in an orchard is on your list of things to experience in the Lone Star State, The Orchard in Idalou is well worth a stop!