of apples destined for sale at a nearby farmers market await
transport in a century-old barn at Weston’s Antique Apple
Orchard in New Berlin. Siblings Genevieve Weston, 87, left,
and Ken Weston, 88, right, continue to operate the family
business started by their parents in 1936. Also
pictured is Dave Scott, an employee of the orchard.
BERLIN — This is where you can taste history. It can be tart,
sweet or somewhere in between.
few have hints of pineapple, vanilla, apricot, strawberry or
grapefruit. Most come with red, yellow and green skins.
Wisconsin State Journal reports there are over 160 varieties of
apples that hang from the more than 1,300 trees that make up
Weston’s Antique Apple Orchards. And like the name suggests,
many of the varieties here on Prospect Hill along West National
Avenue have quite a backstory.
Pink Lady apples originated in western Australia and have a
pink-colored flesh. The Black Gilliflower dates to the 1700s, is
conical-shaped and tastes like a pear. The Prairie Spy was
developed at the University of Minnesota in 1940 and is good for
eating but also makes a decent pie. The Sops of Wine apple was
introduced in 1832 in England, while the Cort Pendu Plat apples
are one of the orchard’s oldest. They date to the 1600s in
Europe, bud in late spring to avoid frosts and ripen in October.
two of the best stories in the orchard come from a pair of
octogenarian siblings who are the heart and soul of the farm that
was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 and
donated to the city of New Berlin in 2004.
orchard is operated as a nonprofit, and Ken Weston and his sister,
Genevieve Weston, are making sure that the history of the orchard
and its apples is being preserved with the help of a few employees
and a team of volunteers.
haven’t lost my enthusiasm but I’ve lost my mobility,’’
Genevieve, 87, said, as she
sat on a metal folding chair in the orchard’s more than
100year-old barn. ‘‘This is my world. I love the farm.’’
88, roams the orchard on a Kubota, zero-turn lawn mower, while
Genevieve uses a four-wheeled electric scooter. When they’re not
they use walkers for assistance. But their minds are sharp and
they both have witty personalities that occasionally clash. Their
apple IQs are off the chart.
not a great flavor but it’s not bad. I keep it because it’s
historically interesting,’’ Ken said while looking over a
Tomato apple tree planted in 1936. ‘‘When I was a child, I
would wander through (the orchard) in the dark. They looked like
idea of the orchard is to preserve antique apple varieties that
generally predate the widespread use of refrigerated box cars.
Beginning in the 1940s, refrigeration allowed apples that were
‘‘transportation-hardy’’ to be shipped greater distances,
which led to a decline in the number of varieties available to
consumers, Weston said.
orchard is part of the Prospect Hill Settlement District, a
collection of historic structures and properties in this
southeastern Waukesha County city. Besides the barn, its
neighboring farmhouse and the orchard, the district includes the
former Freewill Baptist Church, which was constructed in 1859 and
restored to its original state after being destroyed by arson fire
in 1985. Other buildings include barns and houses from the 1800s,
a red schoolhouse built in 1863 that was converted to a cheese
plant, the Meidenbauer log cabin and a windowed tower that was
part of the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital from 1930 to 1955.
orchard’s barn was built in 1906 for dairy cows, but when Ken
and Genevieve’s grandfather, William Marckwardt, moved to the
property, he and his brother Henry used the barn’s basement for
an aluminum and brass foundry where they made barrel staves and
metal handheld nutcrackers. William Marckwardt purchased the farm
in 1931 and in 1936 his daughter Alice and her husband, Harvey
Weston, who had moved to the farm from Milwaukee with their two
young children, began adding to a small apple orchard already on
father at first was in the chicken business but, of course, that
was no good at all because people were stealing the chickens and
so we got into the orchard business,’’ Genevieve said.
‘‘This was during the Depression and they weren’t getting
money (in Milwaukee), they were getting script instead of money,
so they came out here. My mother always liked apples as a little
girl.’’ Alice Weston used to sell apples from the small
orchard, fresh bread and pies along the road. But by the
mid-1940s, the trees planted in the midto late-1930s, some from
McKay Nursery in Waterloo, began to fully produce. As more trees
were added, the orchard became a major undertaking and thriving
family business. The barn’s basement was converted to cooler
space for harvested apples, while the main floor of the barn was
used to store machinery.
Weston inherited the property from her father’s estate in 1949.
She died in 2000 at the age of 99, while her husband, Harvey, died
in 1992 at 87.
More than half a
century at the farmers market
Weston graduated from UW-Madison and taught elementary school for
about seven years before returning to the farm to help on the
orchard. Today, she spends three afternoons a week at the West
Allis Farmers Market with employee Dave Scott, who loads and
drives the pickup truck with nearly two dozen different varieties
of apples displayed in wooden crates and halfgallon jugs of apple
cider made from a mixture of apple varieties.
sits in a chair behind the stand where she collects money and
weighs apples, and is quick to offer background on the taste and
texture of the fruit. She’s been coming to the market for over
used to like early apples; now they only go for the hard, crunchy
apples. They don’t like soft apples anymore,’’ said Weston,
who wore a purple John Deere sweatshirt partially covered by her
long, white hair. ‘‘We have wonderful helpers, as you can see.
Without these helpers, I don’t know what we would do.’’
Thursday’s market, the inventory, all sold for $2 per pound,
included Yellow Bellflower, Golden Russett, Hubbardston Nonesuch
and Mutsu, a variety developed in Japan in the 1930s. One customer
purchased 19 pounds of apples. Another, Ralph Spano, of Milwaukee,
bought a plastic grocery bag full of several different varieties.
been coming here to see this young lady for a long time,’’
Spano said. ‘‘I’ve tasted them all so I get an
orchard produces between 3,000 and 4,000 bushels of apples a year,
which are also sold at Riverwest Co-op Grocery & Cafe in
Milwaukee, at the farm on Sundays and since the 1970s, at the Dane
County Farmers Market. That stand is now run by Ken Weston’s
daughter, also named Genevieve. The orchard also offers classes on
grafting, integrated pest management and pruning, and grows other
fruits including cherries, plums, pears and peaches.
‘This place is
very special to me’
Ken Weston, the orchard has become a second career. After
graduating from Waukesha High School in 1947, he headed to
UW-Madison, where for a time he lived in a room at the corner of
Commonwealth Avenue and Monroe Street and earned bachelor’s,
master’s and doctorate degrees in mathematics. He taught at
Notre Dame and Marquette universities and in 1973 joined the
academic staff at UW-Parkside in Kenosha County, where he would
teach and give lectures around the world on algebra and
mathematical logic until his retirement in 2007.
who almost died five years ago from an inflamed gallbladder,
recalls cutting the grass in the orchard when he was young with a
sickle and hauling rocks in a rickety wheelbarrow because his
father refused to buy modern machinery. But while the farm now has
lifts, tractors and other more modern amenities, the orchard has
remained as true as it was 70 years ago.
wide variety of flavors of apples beats just about any other
fruit,’’ said Weston. ‘‘We’re adding apple varieties all
the time. This place is very special to me.’’