by Kanoelani Pilobello
It’s all about a good apple. Steere Orchard is an institution in Rhode Island and Jim Steere and his son, John, have constantly evolved farm operations to keep it that way.
In other words, a lot goes into that apple. An apple tree starts with a graft of the fruit-bearing branch to the roots of another tree to create a strain, unique in many ways to that farm and to a particular place in time.
A few older strains of Macoun apple trees are still producing on Steere’s 100-acre property, which also hosts some of the original Baldwin and Rhode Island Greening trees planted in the 1930s at the founding of Steere Orchard by Jim’s grandfather. Each strain of Macoun tastes slightly different. Jim Steere claims that the old Macouns have the best flavor, though John seems less convinced. If you’ve never had a Macoun apple, it might be because they are not easily found in stores. Their shelf-life is short-lived and these seasonal fruit can lose their crisp in 1-2 months after they’re picked. In more recent years, Steere Orchards has also added peaches to their farm as a late summer crop.
Steere Orchard is a living heirloom. Jim Steere beams when he talks about his relationship with the community, particularly when people come back because their parents brought them there as children. Farm Fresh RI has helped to distribute these ephemeral fruits to small and mid-scale buyers, making buying and eating local more accessible in today’s marketplace. Steere Orchard sells largely through Farm Fresh RI’s Mobile Market, to Harvest Kitchen, and at a few farmers markets.
To catch a taste of a Rhode Island, sun-ripened peach or apple, you can also stop by the orchard in Greenville, RI (“Apple Valley”) for their Peach Fest in late summer or Apple Fest in fall.
Kanoelani Pilobello is a scientist by training and an advocate at heart. She enjoys travel, learning new things and is, in some respects, a foodie.