Brian St. Louis has been working on his apple orchard for over thirty years now, but sadly, to date I’ve only had one (albeit tasty) apple. That’s because although apples have been growing, there has not been time to share with the public until now. In the past only family, friends or opportunistic deer have had the pleasure. This is the first year Sunrise View Farm has offered them up for sale.
Both Brian and his wife Priscilla are the kind of people that you always see doing something. Never at rest. If you live in Rangeley, you know the kind. It seems that the home chores and professional work are never ending. Yet still, for people on the move, there is always another project that although worthwhile, you never seem to be able to give your full attention to. Now that Brian is slowly reducing his off-site jobs, he and Priscilla, (also since retiring from teaching at Rangeley Lakes Regional School), both have more time available for endeavors like this.
“With doing landscaping and stonework I didn’t have time to attend to it. It was frustrating in the past to come home and go ‘Oh yea, I got all that to do…’ or ‘I got all that I CAN’T do.’ So now we’re doing some of it. It’s kind of satisfying.”

Stephanie Chu-O’Neil

There were just a few apple trees on the land when the property was purchased, but over the course of the past three decades he has slowly been planting more. There are now almost 60 trees, 20 of which were planted just this year and there are many different kinds. Among them are McIntosh, Cortland, Gravenstein, State Fair, Fireside, Frostbite, Dolgo, Yellow Transparent, and some different types of unidentified, yet edible crab apples. One of those unidentifiable ones is that really large apple tree that is sort of bent over as you drive past on Route 4. Priscilla has been told that that one is over 100 years old. Priscilla also told me the tree they WILL remember the age of is the Jonathan apple tree planted when son Jonathan (Adkins) was born. (Side note: What a great way to celebrate the birth of a child! Plant a tree!)
Other than to mark an occasion, the trees he has planted have been chosen for a variety of reasons. “For different purposes, at different times. Keeps the ball rolling so they don’t all come at the same time.”
From my first bite of my McIntosh it was apparent that healthy care and maintenance have gone a long way toward producing a nice harvest. “I’ve always pruned them I think fairly well. You know, some years got by me. We don’t spray anything for pesticides or herbicides around them. We do spray, but what we do spray is seaweed fertilizer. So rather than spraying with pesticides we’re just going for healthy trees. And I spread compost around them in the fall. I gotta do that coming right up. We do spring and fall fertilizing. We’ve had more of a holistic approach to it rather than the stereotypical spray, spray, spray orchard thing. And I’ve seen or heard comments that we do spray because we’re right there on Route 4 and people drive by and go ‘’Oh, they’re spraying’, so they assume we’re spraying pesticides when we’re not. It’s all done organically.” Organically grown apples is good news to me. Now, Rangeley has yet another offering to be proud of.

Mother Nature has also done her part. “It seems to be a good year. Apple production is kind of a see-saw thing. Genetically apples are predisposed to being biennial, although a lot of the newer varieties produce every year, depending on the weather. Like, it was a pretty easy winter. It was a REALLY easy winter this past year so they may have not have lost buds due to really cold weather and the spring was kind of warm. So, you know, it all worked out.”
It has been no small feat to nurture his young saplings into rows of apple producing goodness but if my taste buds are any indication, for his very first selling season, I believe he’s off to a great start. And hopefully this is the first autumn of many to look forward to.

One thing is for sure, he is getting his exercise. While Priscilla and seven-year-old grandson Birch do help, it is mostly Brian doing the picking.  That being said I know there is usually a balance in happy relationship. Additionally, I know from experience Priscilla is talented not just in floral arranging and gardening, but baking, I couldn’t help but ask if he enjoyed a fresh apple pie yet. “No, I’ve only got one so far,” he said sadly.

Well, like a said, she’s a very busy woman herself.

Bottom line is that for those of us who like to buy local and enjoy baking pies woohoo! – ‘Tis the Season!

And as far as Brian is concerned the fruits of his labor of love will continue for many years to follow. “Something I can mess around with as long as I can climb a ladder.”

Brian St. Louis with helper Birch Adkins

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