From Nikki Conley, Owner
A Graphic Designer/ Photographer Turned Apple Charmer A Fruitful Journey For My Family & YoursI grew up in the mountains where old, twisted apple orchards flourished just up the road. We'd take drives up there, walk into the old dusky barns full of bagged apples and choose the heaviest, prettiest bags of mountain-grown apples we could find. Those apples were the tastiest apples I'd ever eaten, and they set the bar for me as to what an apple SHOULD be. Crisp, sweet, natural, tasting like the air, mountain soil, and water that nurtured it through the spring and summer season.
I've taken a few paths in life, chasing some sort of ultimate goal that would somehow make me feel accomplished, professional, successful. The path we are all taught to walk down in life - That path that eventually leads us to the ultimate job that is supposed to last you through your productive years until you can manage to retire. I spent roughly ten years in college, two different majors, three different professions. Graphic Designer ( my long standing artistic ability led me down the first path), Elementary/K-12 Teacher ( my love for sharing knowledge and the many wonders of the world with the youth), and a role as wedding/family/lifestyle photographer ( the amazement of capturing a single time, place, and memory that will never occur again). Along the way, gardening and growing food was always my hobby, my love, my passion. Everything else was a 7 to 6 , a paycheck, a way to help provide for my family. Nothing more, no passion.
Isn't it funny that what brings us back to our own hearts is where they began in the first place? The simplicity of an apple, the quiet mountains, the fresh air.
Our girls will run through the orchards barefoot, they will chase ladybugs, once again see food growing before their eyes, and will truly learn the concept and reward of a job well done. They will taste a sun-ripened apple straight off the tree that was nurtured by rich mountain soil, clean air, and natural spring water directly from our own spring. Anything worth doing isn't easy, but it's worth the struggle to find your happiness. My husband and my girls have supported me through this journey, and it's one we are happily on together. For me, happiness is biting into an apple and tasting the sweet simplicity of what life was and should be still. Athol Orchards Antique Apple Farm & Bakery will be a place for you and yours to experience the same simplicity.
When you come to visit our farm, my wish is that you'll leave your cell phones in the car, grab the hands of your loved ones, press some fresh cider, treat yourselves to some fresh pie or an apple fritter, and take a bag of apples and a few heirloom pumpkins home to enjoy during the Autumn season. Life doesn't have to be so fast paced. Let us enjoy the simple things once more.
- Athol Orchards is a quaint heirloom apple farm that strives to grow some of America's most cherished, rare, and uncommon apple varieties.
- Athol Orchards Antique Apple farm is a member of the Kootenai County Farmer’s Market as well as the ABC Athol Farmer’s Market.
- The farm produces farm grown goods such as heirloom apples, heirloom pumpkins, sunflower and pumpkin starts, fresh cut sunflowers and other seasonal flowers, and raw honey.
- The farm also produces a farm-crafted product that has become very popular since it’s launch less than a year ago, Athol Orchard’s Apple Cider Syrup. This product can be found in several local stores including North 40 Outfitters and Pilgrims Market. It is used for everything from pancakes in the morning to a glaze on your favorite ribs or a drizzle over ice cream or in a hot or cold beverage.
- The farm will soon be launching a few other very special farm-crafted goods that will be available both at the farmer’s markets as well as local stores.
Owner Nikki Conley, along with her husband Erreck and daughters Mackenzie and Madelyn settled in Athol in the late Winter of 2016. The property they searched for needed to be for a special purpose: growing a farm, and growing memories. Nikki grew up in foothills surrounded by small family apple farms. She recalls fond summer afternoons of traveling up the road to the roadside barns where paper bags loaded with fresh, organically grown apples welcomed visitors with the sweet smell of damp earth, old barn wood, and the sweet fragrance of apples grown high in the mountains.
The Conley family is focused on Athol Orchards becoming what Nikki likes to refer to as a “ Learning History Farm”. Not only will visitors from the community be able to come out to learn about the historic apples being grown on the farm, they will also learn about the significance of apples on the American landscape.
Antique variety apples aren't the only specialty. The farm is participating in a University of Idaho Extension office project, the first of it’s kind in the nation - The Native Mason Bee Project which is a program currently taking place in the Kootenai County 4-H club. Members will raise mason bees at home and then have the opportunity to visit the farm where a hive of working mason bees will be observed and the children can take notes and compare the habits of their own mason bees to those out here at Athol Orchards.
Nikki is also excited to be collaborating with The Lost Apple Project and will soon be grafting and installing trees discovered by “apple investigator” Dave Benscoter. These apples were thought to be lost to the past but have recently been discovered and are being re-introduced to the world through Mr. Benscoter’s efforts. This will be a very meaningful educational experience for visitors to Athol Orchards.
Family Apple Cider Pressing Days, Heirloom Apple-Tasting, an Apple U-Pick season, Vintage Tractor Fair, maple sugaring (yes, the real deal), Pumpkin to Pie, Apple Pie Farm, and even sleigh rides on a vintage, soon to be fully restored one horse open sleigh... these are some of the exciting things to come for the communities surrounding Athol Orchards.