Photographer / Kerch Creative
David Boots grew up in Texas and Georgia. In 2004, he moved to Indiana and was looking for work. The owner of Wild’s Apple Farm was hiring extra help, so Boots showed up, worked hard and was asked to come back the next day. He continued to work at the orchard and when the owner turned 90 years old, in 2004, he offered to sell the farm to Boots, who excitedly accepted.
Boots and his wife currently manage all the business operations at Wild’s Apple Farm in Zionsville where they grow more than 800 different kinds of apples. Their mission is to preserve heirloom varieties. Boots says the big commercial productions can’t grow the older varieties because they are pressured to grow the most popular, newest apples.
“With these heirlooms here, there’s a lot of good character, history and really fun things about them that we are trying to preserve,” he says.
Often, customers call Boots looking for an apple that they can’t find elsewhere. He often hears stories asking for an apple variety that their mom used to use to make apple pie or a variety they remember from their childhood. Boots says it’s very special when they can fill these niches.
Wild’s Apple Farm does most of its business through farmers markets. You can even find them at Noblesville and Broad Ripple Summer Farmers Markets where they usually sell 20-30 different apple varieties.
“The community response has been great. Everyone loves that we’re here,” Boots says. “They like how we’re a smaller operation and everybody loves the local produce.”
Most apple orchards offer U-pick services. Wild’s Apple Farm offers this by appointment only. Because they grow so many different varieties of apples that ripen at different times, Boots needs to take customers around the farm, letting them know which apples are ready to pick and talks about the unique qualities of each apple and their history.
Boots grows several varieties that were developed by other local growers.
“I’m always interested in talking to the other farmers who are basically trying to do what we are doing,” Boots says.
Often farmers will try to create fruit with specific characteristics. Certain strains may not be exactly what they were looking for but are still really fun and interesting for a different reason. Boots grows some of those apples because he likes providing customers with apples that you can’t find anywhere else.
Customers often are most interested in texture, even over flavor. The Honeycrisp is a phenomenal apple that people love because of the crunch. Boots says the flavor is wonderful as well but it’s that snappy crunch people look for.
Boots’ favorite apple is a variety called Gold Rush.
“It’s nice and crispy and it keeps for a very long time which is really nice for a grower,” Boots says. “I do winter farmers markets so I can hang onto the apples and sell them at the market all the way till February. It tastes sweet and tart which I compare to a Granny Smith, but it has even more flavor.”
Boots also likes it because it was locally developed out of Purdue University and it’s beautiful. The apple has a very rich yellow color with a faint red blush.
Working on a farm is a lot of work but Boots says that comes with a lot of validation.
“When you can see what your effort creates, it’s great,” he says. “When you are working all day and putting in long hours, you can then see the results of your labor when you watch an apple grow.”
If you’re interested in buying apples from the farm, call Boots at 317-873-4726 to arrange a pick-up. Wild’s Apple Farm is located at 4321 W 156th St in Zionsville. You can also visit them online at facebook.com/wildsapplefarm.