Spring – 2018 (Article #1)
In the heart of Green Bluff there is a farm deeply rooted in the traditions of old, yet its owners are branching out with new ideas too. A day trip to 9807 E Day Rd will lead you to Walters’ Fruit Ranch. The owners, Jason and Morghan Morrell, are stewards of the farm, a “working museum” as Jason calls it. Some trees are 110 years old, long outliving those who planted them.
Walters’ Fruit Ranch is a long running legacy, literally and figuratively, started by Tracy and Leda Walters in the 1970s. Tracy Walters is famous for coaching many runners to victories and even coached some Olympic stars. He participated in the Spokane Bloomsday race for over 30 years. Many knew him as the finish line voice, but Tracy’s and Leda’s success doesn’t end at the finish line.
The Walters owned the Fruit Ranch until the early 90s, which is when Jason’s parents, Mark and Arlene Morell, purchased the farm. After selling, the Walters didn’t just pack up shop and leave the new farmers hanging out to dryland farm. Instead, like relay race runners pass the baton, they passed the garden fork to the new farmers. As any good farmer does, the Walters coached the Morrells on the very intricate process of running the farm during their first year of new ownership. In homage to their mentors, the Morrells kept the name “Walters’ Fruit Ranch.” This model of prior generations mentoring their successors is an ideal example of how to honor the future by preserving the past.
Although the Walters began the farm legacy, the Morrells have preserved it, starting with Arlene’s invention of “Take and Bake” pies. These exquisite local treats are handmade. You can buy their pies farm-direct during the season, but you may have seen them in your local Yoke’s supermarket too. Baking a pie should be self-explanatory, but to get the best crust and flavor, local experts recommend baking them directly out of the freezer, NOT THAWING and then baking. Who knew!? I’d be happy to list the available flavors, but it’s best to visit the farm for yourself. The list is extensive!
Before you hurry home to bake your delicious pie, how about earning those extra calories you’ll consume by taking a walk through the U-pick orchard. Jason manages most of the fruit on the farm, and there is quite a variety: strawberries, cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, apples. There are even pumpkins and squash late in the season. Any leftover fruit from the U-pick orchard is donated to 2nd Harvest. For a list of what’s available seasonally, visit the farm calendar on their website at https://appleranch.com/our-fruit/.
Looking for more to do on the farm? You’re in luck. Take a farm tour with a tractor ride and chill out at the petting zoo with some Icelandic mini sheep. Ride through the orchard past the U-pick Christmas trees, and then head back to the retail store. Here you will receive a friendly greeting from Morghan who manages the store and on-farm restaurant. All of the fun is not without some education too. Walters’ Fruit Ranch offers school tours where children can take a ride on the “Fruit Loop Express” and can learn about the various aspects of farming and Green Bluff. Students receive an educational workbook to take home, written by Jason’s parents. Early season features strawberry, cherry, and peach tours, and on a fall tour, they can pick an apple right from the tree. They even get a pumpkin! Finally, students can finish with a cider and apple butter tasting, giving them the full connoisseur experience!
Jason and Morghan love serving the community, and they work hard at “keeping the farm a farm, tied in a bow of agritourism,” as Jason aptly put it. Jason strives to care for the farm with sustainable practices such as integrated pest management, which he explained as “keeping the bad bugs out and good bugs in.” He doesn’t rush through his day carelessly ignoring the small things. He sticks his hands in the dirt, smells it, examines the trees, and finds a way to work with nature instead of against it. Jason and Morgan both manage the farm to ensure that your family and friends can enjoy a Green Bluff legacy for generations to come. Take a “Day” trip to Walters’ Fruit Ranch to visit the farm and the Morrell family – Jason, Morghan, Cash, Poppy & Paisley. They hope to see you soon!