01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By Elspeth Lodge
Journal Staff Writer
The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer
–>Louisa D’Andrea, an energetic woman in her 80s, is a master at handling the tractor. And why wouldn’t she be? For 63 years she’s been married to Joseph D. D’Andrea and together they’ve run Appleland Orchards in Smithfield.
In fact, now two generations of the D’Andrea family are hard at work spraying, picking, managing farm equipment and cooking for the orchard’s store.
The store, where the family sells 15-20 varieties of apples, along with peaches and pumpkins, used to be just a stand until the D’Andreas ripped up a bunch of apple trees and built their current store in 1976. They’ve been at Appleland’s 135 Smith Ave. location since 1972.
Joseph’s son, Joseph L. D’Andrea, and his wife, Mary-Lou, are helping to run the entire orchard business.
What they are truly famous for is their un-pasteurized apple cider, which only a handful of New England orchards make; legally, un-pasteurized cider can only be sold at the orchard where it is pressed. Yankee Magazine ranked the cider among the Best Foods in New England, saying, the cider has “a nectarlike taste that will make you swoon.” It is a blend of a variety of apples grown in the orchard including Macintosh and empire apples.
Joseph D. thinks he might have been around 9 years old when he started helping at his grandfather’s nearby farm called “Polsen’s Farm,” which he says no longer exists. In 1962 he took over an orchard in Connecticut before migrating back to Smithfield in the ’70s to take over a sick friend’s orchard (the current Appleland). Why the name Appleland? There used to be a sign up near the Smithfield town sign that said “Welcome to Appleland,” he said.
When the four members of the D’Andrea family are not out tending to their orchard, they are baking or working for the store. They have large chocolate-covered and candy apples, and a secret apple pie recipe that they have used for years. They also sell apple wine.
Mary-Lou says they also sell a variety of honey which is an all-natural allergy remedy. And they have the best fudge, she claims. The source of the fudge is only known to the D’Andrea family –– they don’t make it themselves, but they are the only store supplied with it; it’s a very popular item.
“I like the variety of jobs,” says Mary-Lou. Like Joseph D., Joseph L. has been immersed in the apple life since before he can remember. “It’s just something that I’ve always done,” he says.
During the fall, the D’Andreas are famous for creating pumpkin displays that parents love to pose their children in front of. They grow pumpkins up to 150 pounds, so there are some great ones on display. In the fall, the foliage is beautiful, and bus tours come through to look at the area. Often other D’Andrea relatives stop by just to lend a hand.
The orchard officially opened Tuesday (Aug. 31) for purchase of apples at the family store..