TRAFALGAR, Ind.—The Apple Works got its start 30 years ago when Rick and Sarah Brown started planting on what is now the southern quarter of the orchard.
After 10 years working as a microbiologist at Eli Lilly and welcoming their first child, Sarah decided to become a stay at home mom. But it didn’t take long for her to also give into planting a variety of produce on their land.
“I had 87 grape vines, 30 apple trees, strawberries, blackberries, black raspberries, all kinds of intensely managed vegetables,” Sarah Brown said. “I always say the girls grew up in a wheelbarrow because they were always in the garden with me.”
Then, her husband asked a question that changed everything.
“Rick looked at me one day and said ‘Would you like to try this commercially?” Sarah recalled. “And I said ‘You know, yeah! I think I’d like to try it!”
From there, the Browns started purchasing land, planting trees by hand with a shovel (just like they do today) and officially launching The Apple Works.
“We started with 200 trees… We thought that was something and now we have 10,000 trees,” said Brown.
Apple Works has grown into one of central Indiana’s favorite fall destinations. For many, it’s a perfect place to escape the city for a fun getaway, offering bushels of fun for the whole family.
Today, it spans 135 acres in total, where they grow over 70 varieties of apples, 20 acres of pumpkins in their U-Pick pumpkin patch and hosts 5,000-6,000 visitors each weekend in the fall.
During the week, kids can enjoy activities like wagon rides to the pumpkin patch, playing on straw mountain, pony rides, bamboo maze, a super slide and a petting zoo with everything from goats to mini horses and even alpacas.
On weekends, a small $3 fee will allow kids into special part of the playground where they will find even more fun areas to explore.
“We have a horizontal crawl over ropes with a slide, a mini zip line for the kids, all kinds of tiles and tubes they can crawl through and we have some real big gongs they can pound on and make all kinds of ominous sounds,” Brown said. “We also offer our Apple Express train which is a big hit.”
Take a walk around the property on one of their nature paths that wind around the pond or cross the bridge over the water and into the Virginia Grabenhofer Memorial Garden, where you can relax and take in the view.
Head inside the country store, where they have apple cider slushies, delicious breads and baked goods, jams, sauces, cookbooks, and much more—always with a Hoosier touch.
“Everything’s from scratch,” Brown noted. “In fact, we even use Indiana flour… We try to keep it as local as we can.”
One of their most popular baked items are their fresh baked dumplings (that you can even top with a scoop of ice cream), which are such hot sellers that you have to get there early to make sure you can get them before they run out.
“We’ll bake 3,000-4,000 dumplings a week and we can’t keep up with it,” she said.
But the stars here are always the apples. However, you can’t just go out to one of their 10,000 apple trees to pick your own because it’s easy to wander off into the wrong variety and wind up with an apple that isn’t ripe and ready to enjoy.
“We’re kind of apple snobs here…We really want them to have the experience of what it should really taste like,” Brown said.
But once inside the country store, you can sample their apples on the spot while learning from their knowledgeable staff.
“When we sample, people are just amazed at how different apples taste,” she said. “We kind of treat it like a wine tasting.”
Brown’s personal favorites are the Gold Rush.
“Purdue says that I am the poster-child for Gold Rush,” she said with a laugh.
“People ask all the time about Granny Smith and I say ‘We grow Gold Rush. We don’t bother with Granny Smith,” Brown said. “The Gold Rush makes Granny Smith just boring!”
Other favorites include Honey Crisp, Jonagold, Crimson Crisp, Topaz, Jonalicious, Cameo and Fuji.
When it comes to sweet apples, Brown suggests the Splendor and Hudson’s Golden Gem varieties.
But when it comes to choosing the best apple for your holiday apple pie?
“Always use a tart apple because you have a ying and yang there,” explained Brown. “Not just sweet on sweet. That’s actually boring.”
Four Things You Need to Know About The Apple Works:
- The Apple Works got its start 30 years ago when husband and wife Rick and Sarah Brown started planting trees on what is now the southern quarter of the orchard. Today, Apple Works spans 135 acres and they have 10,000 apple trees!
- They grow over 70 varieties of apples, ranging from sweet to tart and everything in between. “We have an Evercrisp now—the first apple out of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association— and it’s called Evercrisp because it keeps 10 or 12 months and it’s just a crisp as can be,” explained Sarah Brown. “Ten months later, you bite into that apple and it tastes just like it was picked yesterday.”
- There are plenty of activities for the kids to enjoy, like a petting zoo, super slide, straw mountain, bamboo maze, U-Pick pumpkin patch, pony rides and so much more. You can also head inside the country store to sample apples, pick up scratch-made baked goods, sip on cider slushies and purchase other yummy treats and fun décor.
- Fall may be their busiest season, but Apple Works is a year-round farm. They open in mid-April with a greenhouse full of plants and hanging baskets for sale. Then in December, they will have Christmas trees and plenty of holiday goodies in the country store.
For more information about The Apple Works, check out their website by clicking here. To see more photos and reviews by local Yelpers, check out their Yelp profile. You can also connect with them via Facebook.
While in Trafalgar, check out these other popular local hot spots located nearby: