The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report






The Apple of Grandpa's Eye

"Caitlin Gala"

by Alexandra Edwards

Walk through the produce department in our local grocery stores, especially during the summer months, you will find the shelves filled with color from the vast variety of carefully selected fresh fruits and vegetables this country has to offer.  Yet there is nothing more satisfying than eating home-grown produce straight from the garden. Somehow, it just tastes healthier and more natural, knowing it came from your own soil.

During the early sixties Charles McSpadden of Cleveland Tennessee, decided to plant two apple trees in his back yard. After work each night, he found he enjoyed tending the trees and watching them grow so he gradually added to them until he had forty trees. Recognizing that it had become an interesting hobby, his wife suggested he plant a few more trees, thinking of maybe another thirty or forty, instead he brought home 400!

Alexandra Edwards

After selling their first crop of apples in 1974, Charles' hobby had become a growing business requiring him to leave his employment and work on his orchard full time. Today, "Apple Valley Orchards" on Weese Road, just off Ladd Springs Road, has approximately 8,000 apple trees. The 40 acre orchard produces 30 varieties of apples, the four most popular varieties being the Stayman, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Mutsu.

Apple Valley  is the only orchard in the state of Tennessee to plant their own apple variety.  In 1992 a new strain of the Gala apple was discovered in the orchard. It was much bigger in size yet still retained it's crisp, sweet characteristics. The apple variety had to go through two generations

Charles McSpadden Jr. (Chuck as he is known) took over
management of the orchard from his father in 1996

before it could be patented.  The Grand Gala apple was patented in 1999 and named after Charles' granddaughter, the "Caitlin Gala." It was later  featured on the front cover of the "Stark" apple catalog, which is proudly displayed in the apple house country store.

Although a family run business from the start, Charles McSpadden Jr. (Chuck as he is known) took over the operation of his father's orchard in 1996. Though Charles Sr. still keeps busy in the apple house country store which has recently been expanded to include a bakery, where visitors can sit by a cozy fireplace and enjoy fresh made fried apple pie, a favorite with the locals. Other pies to choose from are peach, apricot, blackberry and during the holiday season, pumpkin and pecan  pies are also available. All can be served with ice cream, coffee or milk.

As well as  bags of apples and jugs of apple cider, the apple house country store sells preserves, relishes, sauces, candles, crafts, and gifts.  Gift baskets are also available over the holidays. Behind the store is the cider

mill, where before the expansion, visitors could watch through a window as  the cider was being made. This was a popular feature that is expected to return in the near future. "Our apple cider is 100% apple, no water, no

preservatives," Chuck said. Asked how the apple cider was made he said "The non-perfect apples are washed, grated, put into refrigeration, washed again, shredded, put into a cloth filter where the juice is pressed out, strained, refrigerated, pasteurized, refrigerated again and jugged. We generally make the cider once a week but our equipment has a 1,200-1500 gallons per day capacity."

Apple Valley Orchards are open year round, with September and October being their busiest months of year. "Hundreds of visitors arrive from all over the country, many return every year, we have lines of people right through the door into the parking area.  However, it is the local visitors throughout the year that the orchard depend upon." Chuck said. 

During the busy months the Orchard employ 7 apple pickers to pick and grade the apples, one is employed year round.  Tours

The Bradley County apple
'Caitlin Gala'

and "hay rides" are also available and are open to the public  on  Saturdays and Sundays during the months of September and October. School tours are offered during the week. The hay rides

as well as being great fun, are also educational. The tour winds through the orchard where you will be shown how an orchard is managed and what it takes to make the apples ready for hand picking. The operation of an orchard is complex and to be successful is a year round job. The biggest problem are the insects that find apples just as delicious as we do. The tour shows how insects affect the apples, and what steps are taken to control these pesky invaders, how traps are set to catch  insects for observation, and the use of weather data to calculate the egg hatching cycles. Different types of insect attack at different times and the data helps decide when and how to treat the trees.

Apples are not the only fruit growing in the orchards. Chuck said, "our first crop of blueberries were picked this summer, they were delicious and quite successful, so we plan on growing more."

Another event planned by the orchard this fall is an "Apple Festival." It will be held  on Saturday,  October 18th, at the Tri State Exhibition Center from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. There will be live music, food, plenty of free games for the kids, crafts and lots of fun.  So, go have a good time and remember, an apple a day, keeps the doctor at bay. For more information call Apple Valley Orchards at (423) 472-3044 or 1-800-503-1433.