In 1996, Chuck McSpadden was walking through his family’s Apple Valley Orchards when he noticed something odd. The apples on the upper branches of one tree were twice the size of those below. “I’d used a chainsaw to cut off a major limb,” he recalls, “and it must have messed up the genetics of the tree.”
Sure enough, the McSpaddens had discovered a new variety of Gala apple. They made some grafts, got a patent and named the cultivar after his daughter, Caitlin. Today, the variety is sold by Stark Bros., the Missouri nursery that discovered the Red Delicious.
The 40-acre farm has more than 12,000 trees and 25 different varieties of apples. Galas are the first major variety of the season, ready around mid-August. Midseason brings Golden Delicious and Mutsu, while Fuji and Stayman come later in the season.
It’s a huge growth from the two leftover trees his father, Charles, bought from the Sears & Roebuck garden department where he worked. He enjoyed them so much that he planted more than 400 trees, and in the early 1970s started selling apples to the public.
Over the years, Apple Valley Orchards has expanded to include a bakery and gift shop, where visitors can buy fried pies, pasteurized cider and a family cookbook of apple recipes, among other items, and wagon rides for $1/person. They’re also involved with the nonprofit Cleveland Apple Festival on Oct. 16-17. The festival, which features a pie-eating contest, dessert cook-off and live music, donates all of its proceeds to charity.
Apple Valley Orchards is located at 351 Weese Road S.E. in Cleveland, about an hour east of Chattanooga. From August to October, they’re open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sundays, closing at 5 p.m. November through December 23. For more information, call (877) 472-3044 or visit www.applevalleyorchard.com.
Once you get back from the apple orchard, visit our recipe center for apple recipes, from soups to desserts.
Read about another East Tennessee apple farm, Mountain View Orchard in Sevierville, TN.