Displaced apple growers lay new roots in Chippewa Falls - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Displaced apple growers lay new roots in Chippewa Falls


Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - Wisconsin is known for its beer and cheese, but not for raging wildfires. That's why one family has decided to put down roots in the Chippewa Valley.

We spoke with a family of apple growers who recently moved from New Mexico to take over an orchard of their own in Chippewa Falls.

The old Bushel & a Peck Market is now Dixon's Apple Orchard, and the family who takes care of the orchard is happy to have a fresh start.

"Here, to us, it's much easier to raise fruit," said Becky Mullane, Co-Owner of Dixon's Apple Orchard in Chippewa Falls.

Chippewa Falls has become the apple of the Mullane's eyes; but it hasn't always been that way. You could say western Wisconsin has grown on the family of apple orchard owners from New Mexico.

"I'll never forget in the spring it was Mother's Day and we were as a family hiking up a mountain and my son said as the grass was crunching underneath his feet he said "Mom I'm scared, this is a scary year." And I said "Yeah it is," Mullane said.

That was back in May of 2011. At the end of July, an unwelcome guest arrived at their doorstep.

"The fire came through the whole ranch, just devastated basically everything," described Mullane.

With New Mexico in a massive drought, the state took action.

"Creeks had been opened, we knew it was coming, the forest service warned us. So we started to prepare, we had a creek that ran would come right down through the orchard which we irrigated out of," Mullane explained.

When rain finally came, the water was more like a weapon. The orchard sat in a valley, and the rain rushed in.

"We sat on the mountainside as we had three sumps, irrigation ponds, they were just wiped out. Everything in its path was being taken."

Devastated but unwilling to give up, the family looked for a fresh start. And Becky's sister had a suggestion.

"She saw this one in Chippewa Falls for sale. She said, "Have you ever thought of moving to Wisconsin? And we just said "No," and she said "The people there are really cool they drive four wheelers, they hunt, you'd like it! And we said well, and we started giving it some thought," Mullane said.

The orchard is now officially open, and the Mullane's are excited about the future.

"We want a fun place for families to come to on the weekend. And memories, taking pictures with the trees, going on a hay ride, we'd also like to get into weddings," said Mullane.

Planning, and preparing, for life in Wisconsin.

"I'm sure we're going to face challenges that we didn't have down there. We don't know that yet because we're just stepping in now. But we will find that out and work with it the best we can."

The family says they did not bring any trees from New Mexico up to Wisconsin to start their new orchard.

But they did tell me they have a patented apple, called the champagne apple. The family says they're hoping to have it ready for sale here in about five years.

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