Rare apples thrive at Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center


Bite into a crunchy, crimson Strawberry Parfait apple and you’ll find just that – hints of strawberry flavor and flesh the color of creamed strawberries. With complex flavor profiles and unique names, it’s hard to imagine fruits like this could ever be overlooked.

If you don’t like the Strawberry Parfait, try any of the other 67 rare and ancient apple varieties grown at the University of Idaho’s Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center and you’re sure to find one you like.

The 66-acre living lab was established in 2018, thanks in part to a generous donation to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences by local philanthropist and orchard founder Dennis Pence and his family.

Nestled at the base of Schweitzer Mountain at the northern end of Sandpoint, it is the university’s only USDA-certified organic research farm. In addition to the orchard, the site includes demonstration gardens, pollinator plots, self-picked raspberries, a cider house, meeting facilities for the University of Idaho, as well as dormitories for visiting faculty and students.

Pence’s contribution was inspired by his confidence that U of I would be the right partner to manage the Orchard’s commitment to organic and sustainable agricultural production, education and outreach for generations to come.

And like the fruit grown on its trees, the orchard itself is a rare treat.

“It’s a real gem to have a stand-alone biological research plot. Very few public universities have that,” Pence said. “And because we’re talking about trees, the value of educating future generations will continue to grow year after year.”

If you’re planning a fall trip to Sandpoint, you’ll find bulk apples and freshly squeezed orchard cider available at two local grocery stores: Winter Ridge Natural Foods and Yoke’s Fresh Market.

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