SWANTON – How do you like them apples! The owners of Johnston Fruit Farms near Swanton hope enough to participate in their annual drive to donate thousands of pounds of apples to regional food banks.
The 7th Annual “Apples for Everyone” event, to be held this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Johnston’s orchard, will rely on members of the public to give their time to the charitable cause. In return, Johnston’s will offer live music, games, crafts, Amish vendors, and a maple syrup demonstration.
Co-owner Martha Mora said the event is an enjoyable way for her and husband Fernando to give back to a supportive community. Since they began operating the farms at 2790 US 20A in 2008, the Moras have held the annual event to harvest apples and donate them to the Toledo Seagate Food Bank.
Participants receive a hayride to and from the orchard and are encouraged to pick apples to their desire. They have the fun of watching a semi truck from the food bank drive directly into the orchard and load what typically amounts each year to about 20,000 pounds of apples.
The truck transports the load, worth approximately $15,000, to the food bank’s cold storage facility. From there, the apples are distributed free of cost to charitable organizations across northwest Ohio.
“We just got the crazy idea to donate a semi load of apples to local food banks,” Mora said. “That’s important to us, because being a family farmer is all about being part of the community. And being part of the community is about giving back. I enjoy being able to do that in a very tangible way.”
The Moras surround “Apples for Everyone” with music, food, and family entertainment.
This year, musical guests will include: The Root Cellar String Band, 10-11 a.m.; Jaime Mills, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; the Toledo International Youth Orchestra, 1-1:45 p.m.; the Galbraith Family, 2-4 p.m.; and Gypsy Luvin with Dawn and Monte, 4-5 p.m.
Barbecue featuring pulled pork will be served by Country Lane BBQ of Perrysburg, and children will be offered games and face painting. There will also be crafts, Amish vendors, and a maple syrup making demonstration by Dick’s Maple Farm of Montpelier.
Admission to “Apples for Everyone,” and some of the activities, are free.
Hundreds of people attended last year and picked 21,492 pounds of apples. Mora said the event gets community members directly involved, and proves to be a more hands-on way to give back than by simply writing a check.
“When you own a small business, you don’t exist without the support of your community. We appreciate the support, because without them we wouldn’t be there. We totally get how important community is,” she said.
Johnston’s Fruit Farms were established in 1954 by Mora’s parents, Dale and Pauline Johnston; her mother died in 1977. The farms also grow strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pumpkins, and squash across 120 acres. They sell 95 percent of their crops directly, and also make apple cider.
Mindy Rapp, operations and program manager of Toledo Seagate Food Bank, said the apples are distributed to soup kitchens, food pantries, and family centers throughout eight northwest Ohio counties.
“Anything fresh is always very much needed. This is a good treat, and also very healthy for our people in need,” she said.
The food bank was initially amazed by the Moras’ generosity, Rapp said. Johnston’s has become one of its biggest donators.
“It came as a big surprise. They’re just a fabulous family,” she said. “Trust me. The apples find homes really quickly.”
Rapp said she’s glad the harvest and donation have become a community event, and encouraged parents to take their children.
“They learn about giving back to the community,” she said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.