MEXICO - Community members in Mexico came out to help thin apple trees at Hickory Ridge Orchard on Saturday.
The apple trees on the farm had too many apples growing on them. The big bunches of fruit weigh down the branches, causing the apples to stop growing.
"If we don't get them thinned out the branches can break, the apples won't grow into a bigger apple. They'll be stunted and they will be small," Brandt Schisler, owner of Hickory Ridge, said.
The farm boasts 450 full grown apple trees, a few peach trees, 400 newly planted apple trees and 24 varieties of apples to pick.
"Having the community come out and help me with this, it actually helps the apples and the apple trees produce better apples," Schisler said. "So, this fall when people come out and do the U-Pick there's good quality apples for everyone."
Schisler said Hickory Ridge is the only U-Pick orchard in Mid-Missouri. That means anyone can come out and pick their own apples starting in August.
"A lot of work, a lot of sweat, a lot of blood, a lot of tears and a lot of praying, that's really the best way I can put it," Schisler said about taking care of the orchard.
All of the mini apples that were picked off the trees Saturday will be used as fertilizer and feed for the animals on the farm.
"If the apples are left under the trees, bugs will eat them, lay eggs and climb up and eat the fresher apples," Pierce Boyer, Schisler's nephew and a worker on the farm, said.
William Sause has worked at Hickory Ridge for two years. He likes to work at the orchard because he likes to be out in nature.
"It makes me feel calm to be out here. It's nice to be around all these trees," Sause said.
Schisler has to battle with deer, bugs, fungus and Mother Nature in order to tend his trees.
Hickory Ridge is a dwarf orchard, which means all of the apple trees are eight-to-ten feet tall. Since they are smaller, the new trees yield their first harvest in about three-to-five years.
You can find Hickory Ridge apples and peaches at the Columbia Farmer's Market. You can also visit the orchard in the fall to pick your own apples when the harvest is ready.
Schisler said he plans on having fun fall activities for families like hay rides in addition to the U-Pick apple picking.