Dream Apple Farm

Dream Apple Farm, Organic Orchard Committed to Tradition

Sandra Yerges


Some say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but not Ed and Peggy Callahan, owners of Dream Apple Farm. They both previously worked as physicians in eastern Wisconsin. After seeing first-hand the benefits of a healthy and nutritious diet on the job, they wanted to make a positive difference with the orchard they developed.

Although Peggy was a “master gardener,” there was still a large learning curve the two had experienced when they first purchased the property in 2012. “We didn’t really know anything about apples,” Ed explained. They enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Commercial Beginning Apple Growers School, where they were exposed to what it takes to establish an orchard. While attending these classes, they realized they wanted to take their farm one step further and focus solely on growing organic produce.

In 2014, the first planting commenced on the farm with 160 apple trees in a test orchard. Managing a farm of that size required hands-on labor and time from those tending the trees. Three years later, Dream Apple Farm was officially USDA certified as an organic orchard, which continued when they expanded to 1,300 trees in 2018.

In order to be certified by the USDA, the farm must complete thorough documentation and pass routine inspections all the while upholding organic principles. One of these inspections include random leaf testing to ensure the trees are not being treated with any prohibited chemicals or pesticides.

Dream Apple Farm was also certified by the Real Organic Project, a traditional organic certification distinct from the USDA certification. Closely following the traditional organic principles, this farm focuses much of its attention on cultivating healthy soil for their crops to grow. “A lot of large organic systems are now more about the inputs rather than the soil,” Ed illustrated. The USDA sets out many guidelines for organic farmers to follow, but the real certification pushes for further attention placed on processes from the ground up.

In addition to apples, the business has expanded to growing raspberries. As a seasonal farm, there are slightly differing times for which each fruit is grown. The raspberries arrive in July, whereas the apples begin growing in late August to early September and finish in the beginning of November.

Ed admits it is not always a simple process to grow these fruits in an organic manner. “It’s very difficult to control pests and disease organically in apples,” he stated. Conventional farms utilize sprays and chemical pesticides to control these factors, which is not an option for organic farmers. As a farm who emphasizes natural produce preservation processes, Dream Apple Farm has unique tactics to keep pests away from their produce.

An example of one of these tactics is the use of a clay deterrent for pests. The farm sprays a small coating of this clay to their apples. Instead of using synthetic chemicals, this process is fully natural and prevents plant damage, especially from pests like plum curculio. There is a balance this farm maintains because they strive to encourage natural predators while providing quality produce to their customers.

VAPG Funding

The produce they harvest are not the only goods available for purchase thanks to the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) they received in 2021. Ed explained that after learning more about the grant at University of Wisconsin seminars, they decided to write a small grant to expand the market for their

value added products. With the $49,500 they were granted, Ed and Peggy were able to build a farm store to sell both their fresh fruit and goods made with fruit from the farm.

Within the store, there is a licensed commercial kitchen that is perfect for baking and cooking on site. With the grant money, they hired a pastry chef who makes delicious jams and pastries for the farm store. In addition to these treats, the advertising and marketing efforts, funded by the VAPG, draw awareness to Dream Apple Farm and their farm store, DreamPort Harvest Market. “The grant has really magnified our ability to hire people and sell our products,” said Ed.

Being located in Port Washington, which resides close to Lake Michigan, draws in many tourists to the farm store as well. Ed explained that even though many locals are drawn to the store due to its organic and local offerings, the summertime is a great time to bring in new visitors looking for a unique place to spend their time.

Now that the farm store is fully operational, Ed and Peggy’s goal is to sell 100 percent of their products at their store on site. The funds from the grant supported them by gaining not only a store, but also learning more about successful marketing and hiring practices. As they wait for their grant reimbursements to come in the fall as they regain their raw commodity, the farm will be grateful for the funds they had to build a farm and store for all to enjoy.