Keeping the doctor away

Apple Fest returns to Aullwood Audubon Farm

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: Take a wagon ride pulled by draft horses Mick and Red, at the 2014 Aullwood Audubon Farm Apple Fest; photo: Ardith Hamilton

Fall is here, and brings with it the 28th Annual Apple Fest, Sept. 27-28 at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm.

To those who work at Aullwood, the event is known as an “apple feast.”

“The food is amazing,” said Executive Director Charity Krueger.

You can eat homemade ice cream, stone-fired pizza, lamb chili, steamed corn, BBQ pork and, of course, apple everything! Enjoy apple dumplings, apple slushies, apple cider and apple pies made in a Dutch oven. Watch a steam-powered engine facilitate the making of 1,000 pints of apple butter over the weekend.

“There’s this awesome harvest aroma,” Environmental Education Specialist Tara Pitstick said.

Are you drooling yet? If gorging isn’t really your thing, just walk around the farm. The farm at Aullwood opened in 1962 and was the first educational farm in the country, according to Krueger.

Aullwood is a working farm – they sell their own eggs, honey, chicken, lamb, turkey, beef and pork. They also grow their own spelt and oats and bundle their own hay to feed the animals and to sell.

Keeping to their mission, Aullwood uses sustainable methods like grass-based livestock management, proper plowing, crop rotation and no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The farm is also open to school groups and visitors, including its own preschool through partnership with Head Start. Everyone can come meet the animals, help gather eggs or plant vegetables in the garden.

“How many farms can you go to that are open to the public?” Krueger noted. “Most kids now don’t know where their meat comes from or where vegetables grow.”

The farm houses rabbits, hogs, goats, sheep, donkeys and bronze turkeys. School groups and visitors can come and see the miniature horses, meet the cow and her calf and say hello to the draft horse geldings, Mick and Red.

The horses will be pulling the wagon for rides at Apple Fest – or families can take a ride on the tractor pull.

In addition to the vegetable garden, there is an herb garden. The collection of 80 herbs, with signs and exhibits, has been maintained by the Greenview Garden Club for decades. Garden club members will be on hand at Apple Fest to interpret the smells and tastes of the various plants.

“It’s remarkable,” Krueger said. “This is a super group that dedicates many, many hours to garden upkeep.”

Festival attendees can also visit the barn for live entertainment. Over the weekend, traditional country music will be provided by Corndrinkers; Chris Rawlins and Studio Fitness will bring interactive activities; and Tom Hissong will offer a special presentation on the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in North America.

In between the barn and the garden is a grassy knoll and a nature play area, where sand, stumps and a concrete tunnel form the playground. Pitstick noted that while the play area is used throughout the year, it explodes at Apple Fest.

“It’s heavily trafficked that day,” she smiled. “The kids love the tunnel.”

This is Pitstick’s fifth year at Aullwood, but she was introduced to it on a field trip many years prior.

“I thought ‘what an incredible place – that would be the dream, to work here,’” she remembered.

When the educational position opened up, Pitstick jumped at the opportunity. She’s loved being a part of the continued growth of Aullwood, including the Farm Discovery Center, which was dedicated in 2012.

“It’s been even more than I expected,” Pitstick said. “It’s been incredible, watching [Aullwood] grow.”

The Farm Discovery Center contains an auditorium-style space, classrooms, traveling exhibits and special “garage doors” painted by the Summer Adventures kids’ group. The building is green-certified and achieved a gold status, the second highest level, in the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation program. From rain barrels to solar panels to light sensors, the building is full of materials and construction concepts to be energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

At Apple Fest, vendors will line the Discovery Center and the farm. Along with the food, there will be demonstrators weaving, needle-felting and making soap. Johnny Appleseed will be walking around the grounds regaling the children with his tales. Kids can also make crafts like masks and hand-painted pumpkins, or take part in a special “Mobile Learning Adventure” tent with themed stations sponsored by PNC Bank.

“I told my staff ‘each one of you has to experience this – it’s education at its best,’” Kreuger said of the hands-on tent.

Aullwood’s Nature Center, down the road from the farm, will also be open during the festival. The original nature center was established in 1957 with 70 acres of land from Marie Aull, who approached the National Audubon Society with the idea of creating the first nature center in the Midwest.

In 2000, the center was remodeled and opened a $4.3 million educational wing. The center features several interactive discovery rooms and classrooms, a special bird-watching space with comfortable chairs and a library, as well as a nature store. So, whether you enjoy food, fabric, music or just want to see a kid smile, Apple Fest and Aullwood offers it all.

Apple Fest will run from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27 and Sunday, Sept. 28 at Aullwood Audubon Farm, 9101 Frederick Pike. The Nature Center is at 1000 Aullwood Rd. Apple Fest admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages three and up and free for Friends of Aullwood. For more information, please call 937.890.7360 or visit aullwood.center.audubon.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Joyell Nevins at JoyellNevins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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