Ryan Aponte of Port Clyde eats an apple Saturday while he looks at summer apples on display during Apple Camp at Pilgrim Lodge in West Gardiner. There were crates of some varieties available for tasting. Aponte said that he doesn’t have an orchard but came to the camp to learn more about making cider. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

WEST GARDINER  — Ryan Aponte of Port Clyde only made cider for the first time last year, but was drawn to attend this year’s Maine Apple Camp to learn more about the fruit.

“I couldn’t resist the siren song of all the apple trees on the St. George peninsula, so I picked a bunch with my family and neighbors, and then found a farm that would press apples for us.”

Aponte said he gave pressed cider back to people who let him pick apples off their property, and that he still ended up with 35 gallons of cider after the pressing, and that it was already fermenting on the drive home.

Summer apples seen on display Saturday during Apple Camp at Pilgrim Lodge in West Gardiner. There were crates of some varieties available for sampling. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s just a magical, amazing process,” he said.

Aponte was one of several apple enthusiasts from across the country who came to spend three days at the Pilgrim Lodge in West Gardiner for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s (MOFGA) third biennial Maine Apple Camp event.

MOFGA Community Education Director Anna Libby said the event was inspired by Maine Fiddle Camp, who MOFGA collaborates with through the Common Ground Country Fair.


Maine Fiddle Camp is a traditional music camp that offers instruction in over 14 instruments and welcomes all ages and skill levels.

It was also partly modeled after the association’s Farmer to Farmer conference, which is a series of in-depth discussions among peers in the farming world that encourages sharing knowledge of the field.

Libby said Maine Apple Camp was also a natural progression after they began focusing more energy on the apple orchards on the MOFGA campus.

Kevin Clark of Rose Hill Farm in New York speaks Saturday during an Apple Camp panel discussion on holistic fruit growing at Pilgrim Lodge in West Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We were eager to build our network of orchardists and fruit explorers and collaborators on all things orchard related,” she said.

Libby said the event takes a few months to plan and is made possible due to the work of a core team of staff and volunteers and a “great team of instructors and panelists” during the event itself.

Pilgrim Lodge Director Elizabeth Charles McGough said the facility, which is owned and operated by the Maine Conference United Church of Christ, has a history of welcoming and hosting nonprofit organizations for retreats.


“Pilgrim Lodge has reopened for its first season since the pandemic hit and has been pleased to welcome back retreat groups,” she said.

Plates of summer apples are available to sample Saturday during Apple Camp at Pilgrim Lodge in West Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

McGough said that apple camp enrollment was high this year.

“After the June session of Maine Fiddle Camp, the director of Maine Fiddle Camp shared that word spread that Pilgrim Lodge is a beautiful facility with a great waterfront, main lodge and dining hall, and a variety of cabins and camping areas. Pilgrim Lodge hopes that offering a spirit of hospitality and a beautiful site has made people feel excited and welcome to come.”

The three-day event featured numerous talks and panel discussions with figures from the apple world. Topics included a talk about foraging from Melissa Madden of Open Spaces Cider and Sam Bonney of Quivering Twig Horticulture, a discussion about apple art called “Apple As Object,” and a roundtable discussion about preserving historical varieties of apples.

“We’re excited to gather together again with folks from all over the country and celebrate the joy of apples,” said Libby. “We’re delighted to use this beautiful space this year — not sure yet where the next Apple Camp will find us.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.