Visitors from around the world are getting a taste of Alabama one bushel at a time with apples from Isom’s Orchard in Limestone County.
The Limestone County Farmers Federation’s Women’s Leadership Committee supplies apples, coloring books and bookmarks to the Alabama Welcome Center off Interstate 65 north of Athens to help educate visitors on local agriculture. But the committee’s Chair Patty Marsh said it’s the crisp, fresh apples that leave a tasty impression about the state.
“We try to promote local commodities, and the best way to do that is by sharing,” Marsh said. “The Isoms raise the apples, and by letting visitors know they’re locally grown, I think it means a lot.”
Wes and Marlene Isom farm 240 acres in Limestone County and grow peaches, apples, pumpkins, sweet corn and other vegetables. The Isoms operate a retail roadside business on U.S. Hwy 72 with their children Kent, Lee and Mary Alice, and their nephew, Joseph.
The Isoms also give peaches to the welcome center and sell apples to Athens and Limestone County school systems.
Wes said the family raised cotton and cattle for hundreds of years, but his grandfather planted the first apple trees in 1966.
“We once had more than 100 acres of apples,” Wes said. “We’re at about 60 now, but the root stocks we’re using are more manageable, so we’re producing higher yields now than we were before.”
Their mainstays are golden delicious, gala, Fuji and Granny Smith apples, and they recently started growing candy crisp, gold rush and enterprise.
Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture Division Director Mac Higginbotham said businesses like Isom’s Orchard are important because they put farmers and consumers face-to-face.
“The language of food is universal,” Higginbotham said. “Food creates a special bond between people, and businesses like Isom’s Orchard are a way to get consumers talking about farming, and farmers talking about food.”
The Isoms open to their farm to the public in late May until November, and they’re always getting visitors from in- and out-of-state.
“We love our customers,” Marlene said. “We have a lot of people from Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Once they find you, they plan their trips around visiting. Everyone’s got a good story, and I want to hear all of them.”