Around The World Plans Thwarted By An Old Ap­ple Or­chard

LIN­COLN COU­PLE, RYAN ACORD AND JOR­DAN STID­HAM, WORK TO RE­STORE STARR HILL OR­CHARD

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - APPLE FESTIVAL - By Lynn Kut­ter

LIN­COLN — Lin­coln spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher Ryan Acord had plans to take this year off from teach­ing and travel the world with his wife and chil­dren.

In­stead, in a com­plete turn­around of plans, the cou­ple pur­chased land south­west of Lin­coln on Lit­tle Road, in­clud­ing an old ap­ple or­chard, and the two want to re­store the or­chard and one day pos­si­bly make it into a place for fam­i­lies to come and en­joy the out­doors.

The land was once an ap­ple or­chard owned by James Leach. The or­chard has not been tended for years, and Ryan and his wife, Jor­dan Stid­ham, a med­i­cal as­sis­tant in Siloam Springs, have spent count­less hours prun­ing and mow­ing the or­chard since pur­chas­ing the land about a year ago. And this is on top of both hav­ing full-time jobs, both go­ing to school full-time and tak­ing care of three boys, one only a few months old.

“It’s been a good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence but we’re busy. We don’t ever stop,” Acord says.

They’ve named their farm Starr Hill Or­chard be­cause the land is lo­cated in the Starr Hill Town­ship. In all, they have about 16 acres and about 400 ap­ple trees. They plan to plant 500 more trees in the next cou­ple years.

The cou­ple had planned to travel on profit Acord made from sell­ing his house in Siloam Springs. Un­til they started their jour­ney, though, they needed a place to rent.

A real es­tate agent showed them 5 acres with a pond and they de­cided to buy it and build a house. Acord said he saw the or­chard next door and asked the re­al­tor what he planned to do with it. The re­al­tor said he planned to sell the land and he guessed some­one would prob­a­bly build a house on it.

“We pur­chased it to save it,” Acord said. “Once we bought it we wanted to re­store it and make it grow again.”

Acord fig­ures it is the last ap­ple or­chard in the Lin­coln area and he wants to re­store it and bring it back for the com­mu­nity.

The two did not know any­thing about car­ing for an ap­ple or­chard. Their neigh­bors have gen­er­ously loaned them equip­ment and tools. Berni Kurz, Wash­ing­ton County ex­ten­sion agent, has pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to them and been out to the farm two or three times to help them with their or­chard.

“He’s been our go-to guy,” Acord said.

Kurz said the or­chard was “pretty rough” when he saw it for the first time last year. It had what he called “weed trees” and poi­son ivy grow­ing ev­ery­where, even up to the top of the trees.

“But that’s part of what comes up when you aban­don an or­chard,” Kurz said. “It’s very hard to bring back an old or­chard that has been let go. It’s hard to bring back old ma­ture wood into pro­duc­tive wood.”

Kurz said, though, he’s been im­pressed with Acord’s ef­forts to turn around the or­chard and to in­vest a lot of sweat and tears into the land.

“I just love that spot,” Kurz said. “It’s an ideal place for an or­chard.”

He said, though, it will not be a quick fix to bring the or­chard back into a pro­duc­tive state but with hard work it can hap­pen.

“I like see­ing the en­ergy he has, par­tic­u­larly for Lin­coln,” Kurz said. “He should do well be­cause he can ask a pre­mium price for his ap­ples be­cause they are grown in Lin­coln.”

Acord said he and his wife have dis­cov­ered their or­chard has many dif­fer­ent types of ap­ples but did not know what all they had un­til the trees pro­duced fruit this fall. Some of the ap­ple va­ri­eties in­clude Golden De­li­cious, Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, Red De­li­cious and Jonathan ap­ples. They’re not sure of what some of the ap­ples are.

“We’re re­searched and looked at pic­tures to fig­ure out what they are,” Acord said.

Jor­dan’s fa­vorite va­ri­ety is Granny Smith. Acord likes Golden De­li­cious ap­ples.

Along with pro­duc­ing ap­ples, Acord said they have other plans. For one, they’ve dis­cov­ered there is an in­ter­est in buy­ing wood from an ap­ple tree. They re­moved many dead trees and have sold the wood for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

One per­son in Mis­souri wanted the ap­ple wood to make treats for chin­chillas. An­other planned to use the wood to make a box for an en­gage­ment ring. The wood also is used as chips in bar­be­cue grills.

They plan to make jams, jel­lies and ap­ple honey and will ge­net­i­cally grow their own trees, in­stead of pur­chas­ing trees com­mer­cially.

One idea is to sell ap­ple trees at the 2019 Arkansas Ap­ple Fes­ti­val to en­cour­age peo­ple in Lin­coln to start plant­ing ap­ple trees.

“That keeps it go­ing,” Acord said. “The trees in their yards will come from this or­chard that’s been here for a long time.”

He’s not sure how old the or­chard is but be­lieves it is more than 25 years old.

Acord also has re­ceived in­quiries from the li­brary, school groups, Boy Scouts and church groups that are in­ter­ested in com­ing out to see the or­chard.

Their ul­ti­mate goal, Jor­dan said, is to have a U-pick farm with other fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties such as a pet­ting zoo.

“This would be a place for fam­i­lies to come,” Jor­dan said. “It brought us out here and we think it can bring oth­ers out here as well.”

PHO­TOS BY LYNN KUTER EN­TER­PRISE-LEADER

Lin­coln teacher Ryan Acord and his wife, Jor­dan Stid­ham, are bring­ing back to life an old ap­ple or­chard. They’ve named it Starr Hill Or­chard be­cause the land is lo­cated in the Starr Hill Town­ship. It mainly will have ap­ple trees and a few peach trees.

Ryan Acord and his wife, Jor­dan Stid­ham, didn’t know what va­ri­ety of ap­ples they would have un­til the trees started pro­duc­ing this fall. They’ve found many va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing Golden De­li­cious, Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, Red De­li­cious.

Kade and Liam picked this bas­ket of ap­ples from the Starr Hill Or­chard, an ap­ple or­chard that is be­ing re­stored by their par­ents, Ryan Acord and Jor­dan Stid­ham.

A view look­ing down a row of ap­ple trees for Starr Hill Or­chard near Lin­coln. The or­chard has about 400 ap­ple trees.

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