Meet Jason and Sarah Steele of Picnic Hill Orchard near Lincoln, Nebraska!
What Picnic Hill Orchard offers:
- U-Pick apples
- Pre-picked apples
- Fun and relaxing outdoor activity
“We want to offer a relaxing, affordable and memorable experience at the orchard. It’s a great place to spend quality time with family and friends outdoors, surrounded by apples and nature!”
Picnic Hill Orchard is located on the outskirts of Southeast Lincoln, making it extremely convenient for people who are seeking an escape from the commotion of city life. This orchard is the dream of Sarah and Jason Steele. “After spending 15+ years working in the software and computer science field, our family wanted to do something different, and give our kids the opportunity to grow up on the farm,” says Steele. Inspired by peaceful, family-friendly, U-pick apple orchards they had visited, the Steeles opened Picnic Hill Orchard to the public in 2021. The orchard consists of about 1,400 trees of 20 different varieties of apple.
A Relaxing Atmosphere
Affordability and access are important to the Steeles. It’s for this reason there is no admission to the orchard. The orchard is a peaceful place where kids and adults can explore nature on beautiful Nebraska fall day. There are picnic tables for gathering, and plenty of space to spread out. The apple barn sells pre-picked bags of apples, as well as other items like home decor, donuts, and local goods. The Steeles hope that the orchard provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, and an opportunity for people to reconnect with the natural environment.
Visitors doing u-pick pay for apples by the bag, and only pay for what they bring home.
They are typically open Saturdays and Sundays August - through October. ****Check Facebook weekly for varieties and hours
- Kid Pick $5 (¼ peck bag, about 8-10 medium size apples)
- Small Pick $10 (½ peck bag, about 15-18 medium size apples)
- Medium Pick $15 (1 peck bag, about 30-36 medium size apples)
- Large Pick $30 (½ bushel, about 54-66 medium size apples)
- Family Pick $20 (½ peck bag, plus kid pick for up to 4 kids)
“People ask why our apples taste so good, and so different than what they find at the grocery store. One of the reasons is ripeness. As a small orchard, we are able to wait and open our doors when the apples are ripe, and have peak flavor.”
Oftentimes at u-pick orchards visitors will be informed which varieties of apples are ready to be picked. Apple readiness depends on their ripeness. Have you ever tried an apple straight from the tree at an orchard, and it tastes completely different than the same variety you purchased from the store? One determining factor in flavor is ripeness. Oftentimes apples that make it to our grocery store shelves are picked unripe, so that they can go into storage or be transported over long distances. This is a good thing because we can get apples and produce consistently over long periods of time. Picking unripe produce, transporting over long distances and storage are not good things when we consider flavor and freshness.
Did you know not all apples ripen at the same time? There are early and late ripening varieties, and everything in between! Among the first to ripen at Picnic Hill Orchard are a variety of apple called ‘Pristine.’ This sweet, tart, gold apple with hints of tropical flavor typically ripens the last week of July, which is far earlier than what we typically think of as apple season. The Arkansas Black apple is on the other end of the spectrum - it isn’t ready to be picked until late October, and actually finishes its ripening and develops its taste when you keep it in your fridge for a while. One of things that Jason and Sarah at Picnic Hill Orchard enjoy is educating guests about apple varieties and ripeness. They let visitors know which apples are at peak ripeness and where they are located. When you are in the orchard, you can’t miss the handmade signs at the beginning of each row that tell you the variety.