Stick Figure Farm

Meet Kelly and Rich of Stick Figure Farm near Hartington, Nebraska! 

A small family farm nestled in the rolling hills of Cedar County Nebraska, raising heritage and specialty apples for farmer's markets. 

What Stick Figure Farm offers:

  • Heritage and specialty apples

“Where we are in Nebraska is just teeming with biodiversity, the bird, insect and plant life continue to amaze us.”

At Stick Figure Farm near Hartington, a dream is taking shape. This dream involves a much loved fruit - the apple - a passion for growing specialty varieties, and a respect for the land and its history. When Kelly Palmer and Rich Burns retired after 27 years of growing organic walnuts in California, they knew they wanted to keep active, but they also wanted to do it on their own terms. For these life-long growers, that meant a move to a historic farm in Cedar county Nebraska where they could put down roots in the rolling hills. Those roots took the form of heritage apple trees - apple varieties that are passed down from multiple generations and are characterized by their diversity of tastes, textures, sizes, and shapes.

It takes about five years for an apple tree to mature and start producing a marketable amount of fruit. 2022 was year five for some of the 150 trees in the orchard with about 25 of them producing enough to experiment with. The Palmer-Burns give apples to their neighbors, and in return they ask for feedback about the varieties - How did you like the taste? What did you use them for? Did you like one better than the other?

In the future, as more trees mature and start producing, Stick Figure Farm would like to sell apples at local farmers markets, and utilize their apples for value-added products like fresh and hard cider. They would also like to host classes and events at the orchard that highlight the different ways apples and other local produce can be used and paired together. Because they are interested in a wide variety of uses for their apples - some for fresh eating, some for making cider, others for baking - Stick Figure Farm has planted over 30 varieties of apple. Every year they take note of how the varieties perform, and how they taste, which helps them plan for future plantings, and get a feel for how the apples might react during certain conditions like harsh winter, drought, and insect pressure.

The best way to eat fresh local apples? According to Rich and Kelly, it's a tie between straight off the tree and in a classic apple pie. 

Apple growing in Nebraska has its challenges - our extreme weather changes, harsh winters, drought and insect pressure can result in stressed trees and low yields. There are ways apple growers can cope with these challenges. First and foremost is variety selection. What kind of apple tree (variety) is most adapted to the region’s particular needs? Different tree varieties come with certain disease resistance, temperature and condition preferences, and fruit uses. Finding a suitable variety for your climate, conditions and uses can be accomplished by doing research beforehand, and on-site observation and recordkeeping once the trees are planted. 

Where to find Stick Figure Farm: