JORDAN, Minn. -- Just southwest of the Twin Cities in Jordan, a local orchard is looking to build an experience around picking, eating and drinking Minnesota apples.
"It's been a historic orchard and farm in the community for years. We were really excited to get in here and put our Ferguson twist on it," said Andy Ferguson, co-owner of Ferguson's Minnesota Harvest.
It's only the Ferguson family's second fall season as owners and operators of the 300-acre orchard.
Even so, Ferguson has made a lot of changes aimed at children and families.
That includes a corn maze, wagon rides, and giant pumpkins for jumping. Everything Ferguson kid approved.
"Our own two kids are five and seven and they're kind of our focus group for everything we add here. If it doesn't pass their fun test, we don't add it," said Ferguson.
"My kids' favorite thing is probably the corn pit. It's not my wife's favorite thing because they come home covered in corn, but they have a blast in it," laughed Ferguson.
Speaking of blasting, there are apple cannons, popular with both kids and adults.
While an immersive experience is important, Ferguson's focus is the product.
"We are farmers first and foremost at our heart so, we've done a lot to take care of the apple trees, and the pumpkins, and luckily we've got a great crop this year," said Ferguson.
A diverse crop that includes 37 different types of apples.
"Don't make me list them off please, but we have all the favorites like honey crisp and sweet tango and one of my favorites is a little lesser known, it's Zestar. That mixture of sweet and tart and then kind of that crisp texture," said Ferguson.
The University of Minnesota introduced the Zestar in 1999.
It's among the varieties available when Ferguson's opens this weekend.
Variety is also key in the kitchen where they develop food and drinks to serve guests.
"The best apple cider donut is made from the best apple cider and the best apple cider is made from a mixture of apples. It changes through the season depending on what's available because we want it as fresh as possible," said Ferguson.
We followed along as Ferguson fried up some donuts and covered them in what he says is their top-secret cinnamon sugar blend.
Ferguson's parents Tom & Deb left their corporate jobs to enter the apple-growing and agritourism business in 2001.
He's proud to continue and help them cultivate what they started, with family at the core of everything they do.
"Not only the families that we welcome here from the community but our own family. Our kids are young, but we hope that we're building a family business that they can continue on into the future," said Ferguson.
With hot dry weather on tap, Ferguson says they could see 5,000 visitors this weekend. Adding that they have the space, the staff, and the cider to cover big crowds.
Andy and his brother Joe now co-own and lead the family business.
Ferguson's Minnesota Harvest opens for the season on Saturday, August 19th.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Admission is $15 per person, 2 and under are free.
The purchase includes a season pass allowing for unlimited daily entry throughout the season.
Derek James anchors Saturday and Sunday evening newscasts and contributes stories during the week on "The 4."