Locally grown with love

Fall is in full swing at AVEnue Orchard

Genevieve Esh

More stories from Genevieve Esh

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Photo by Genevieve Esh

“I used to go to orchards with my grandpa — now it’s my job and part of my whole family,” Joers said.

The nostalgic tradition of visiting an apple orchard to celebrate fall is closer to campus than you think. The family-owned AVEnue Orchard invites people to spend the day, immersed in the feeling of fall.

This year makes for the orchard’s 14th season. Their shop is open year-round, but the orchard itself will only be an autumnal destination for a limited time.

The orchard shop is a small building on site used to sell apples, fresh cider, homemade jams and baked goods. Additionally, locally crafted products from similar family businesses.

Ronald Knutson — also known as Ronnie Appleseed, owner of AVEnue — recounts his history at the orchard. 

“It wasn’t a commercial orchard before we turned it into one,” said Knutson. “The trees were here when we bought the land. The family support we received in getting the business up and running was out of this world.”

Family connection is the core principle of their business. It’s family owned and operated, and works to serve families of the community.

“We’re all about family,” said Knutson. “We do what we can for families.”

Assistant Owners Misty and Matt Joers work to create homemade food products and maintain the orchard, respectively. Misty Joers is Knutson’s daughter. Matt Joers said his favorite part of the orchard is seeing the enjoyment of his family and that of other people in the orchard. 

“It’s come full circle for me, I used to go to orchards with my grandpa — now it’s my job and part of my whole family.”

Commenting on what it’s like to be part of a family business, Misty Joers said most of the time it doesn’t feel like work.

“It’s not work when you enjoy it,” Knutson said.

The family takes their homegrown, homemade products to local farmers markets several days a week. 

Knutson said their best sellers are the Snow Sweet apple, Raspberry Jalapeño and Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Apple Cider. 

When asked what it’s like to take their products to the markets Matt Joers said that the people at farmers markets are like family.

“That’s how we got a lot of our vendors for the store,” Misty Joers said. “Sitting at the farmers markets, you end up falling in love with your fellow vendors there.”

Further explaining the family dynamic of the markets, Matt Joers said people understand the benefit of walking up to the stand and meeting the people growing the apples — who are also putting food on the table for their family, just like the buyer.

The initial hit of the pandemic had a lasting impact on small businesses, and although this rings true for AVEnue, it has actually improved here since the pandemic. According to the owners, taking that time off to workshop helped them come back in full force.

“That push to buy local and support local businesses fosters connection between buyer and seller,” said Matt Joers. “Everyone feels like family.”

Everyone including students here at UW-Eau Claire. 

“If you show me your student ID, I can give you guys a small discount because I know you’re on a budget,” Misty Joers said. “You’re family to us.”

“Pack your lunch, spend the day in the orchard and do your homework or just relax out there,” Knutson said. “The changing of the colors in the trees is just breathtaking, I’m a lucky person to have this place.”

Esh can be reached at [email protected]