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Stateside Podcast: An apple orchard's legacy

It’s reaching the point in autumn where people are gearing up to pick apples from their favorite orchards and cider mills. This year will be a little different for frequent guests of the Wasem Fruit Farm, as the current owners are preparing to sell their operation to another family. Jan and Bruce Upston have been running Wasem Fruit Farm since 1986, when they took over the farm from Jan’s parents, the Wasems.

The couple has been thinking about selling the farm for the last 10 years. Jan said that the decision to sell the farm has been a tug of war, because she wants to continue working, while Bruce wants to retire.

This is quite the year for the Upstons to retire. There was no frost this year, which Jan said caused a crop worth three years of apples. It was so plentiful that tree limbs full of apples were starting to break off.

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Mercedes Mejia
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Michigan Radio

“We’d never had so many apples on all the trees,” Jan said. “After [my helpers] went through, I went through and picked more.”

The Upstons will be selling Wasem Fruit Farm to a man named Karl Thuemmel, who will be taking over the operation next year. Thuemmel is taking over the farm after years abroad in Uzbekistan and Turkey as a Christian missionary.

Thuemmel said he has known about the farm for a long time, and that he and his wife had taken their kids there when they were younger.

“I have pictures of them picking pumpkins and picking apples,” Thuemmel said. “I was here a year ago, just considering different options, I wanted to get back into agriculture."

A friend told Thuemmel to consider calling the Upstons who were looking for someone to whom they could sell their farm.

Thuemmel is a fourth-generation farmer and grew up on a dairy farm in Port Austin. He said that he values taking care of creation.

“I believe that farmers have a responsibility to the world around us,” Thuemmel said. “So that’s really important to me.”

GUESTS:

  • Bruce Upston, owner of Wasem Fruit Farm
  • Jan Upston, owner of Wasem Fruit Farm
  • Karl Thuemmel, future owner of Wasem Fruit Farm

——

Looking for more conversations from Stateside? Right this way.

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Music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions.

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Mercedes Mejia is a producer and the Director of Stateside.
Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.
Ronia Cabansag is a producer for Stateside. She comes to Michigan Radio from Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a BS in Media Studies & Journalism and English Linguistics with a minor in Computer Science.