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The apple of the region’s eye

TK Family Farm – Virtual Farm Tour

(Editor’s note: The annual Rutherford and Polk counties’ farm tour is being staged online this year. Farms can be visited weekly at facebook.com/ncfoothillsfarmtour/)

That unique crunching sound of a bite being taken out of a fresh apple is music to the ears of the Klimstra family whose apple orchard is the only high-density trellis system in Polk County.

Growing and processing apples is clearly a family affair for Jon and Brittany Klimstra, whose three children also help. There’s Natalie, 9, and 7-year-old twins J.J. and Riley, affectionately known as “The Knuckleheads.” Hence, the name T.K. Family Farm.

The three kids, who are bright, mindful and adorable, are almost always in tow when mom and dad take apples to sell at farmers markets, and you can also find them these days working with their parents in the farm’s packing house, where about 600 bushels of apples will be washed, sized, sorted and boxed this year.

“The whole family is actively involved in the operation of the farm,” says Jon, who does the day-to-day work tending the 3,000 trees. On the drawing board is the planting of another 1,300 trees in 2022. With 12 varieties of apples already growing on the farm, that expansion will increase the varieties to 18.

Planting trees has been a family undertaking. Jon’s parents, Gene and Ann of Hendersonville, and Brittany’s parents, Tom and Wanda Thomas of Winston-Salem, have joined in on the work.

The apple harvest is under way now, and the trips to area farmers markets is part of the selling strategy. The family also has an on-site farm store next to the packing house, and customers are able to drive to the farm, located on Airport Road near the Green Creek area of Polk County.

The self-serve store, opened in 2019, is a contact-free way for customers to purchase their apples, as well as other products such as honey and vegetables provided by other farmers. The store is open to the public 7:30 a.m. until dusk seven days a week.

The Rural Seed Restaurant in Columbus and Side Wall Pizza in Travelers Rest, S.C., feature Klimstra apples in their cooking, and the family has partnered with two food share programs to bring healthy food to the under served and needy.

Brittany has a degree in food science and microbiology and has worked in the food industry. Despite having no farm experience, she jumped in with both feet.

“For someone who loves scientific learning and food, I never knew until now that this is exactly what I always needed to do with my life,” she said.

Jon has a master’s degree in wildlife biology and worked for a few years as a federal migratory bird management specialist. Today, he says walking through the orchard in the evening after the fruit is “set” brings him the greatest sense of reward for all the hard work the family puts into their farm, but the best feeling of all?

“Seeing someone taste a farm fresh apple and not know until that moment that it can taste as good as it does,” he said.

Submitted by Larry McDermott