Isom’s Orchard: An Enduring Limestone Legacy

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

For years, I have looked forward to what I call the “Isom’s Interview,” which is my chance to sit down and talk at length with a rare breed, and that is a hard-working, deeply tanned farmer that is “older than dirt.” Wes Isom is such a farmer, and I know he understands that my description of him is one of affection and respect. Recently, we sat down on two chairs he dragged over to the tailgate of his truck after the produce stand had closed for the day. Then Wes did what he does so well, and that is to tell stories, past and present.

If you are new to our area, I think it’s safe to describe Isom’s as an experience, and not just an amazing source of fresh produce, honey, flowers, pumpkins, cider, and more. People come from all over and happily line up and wait to buy what they need, and Marlene Isom, Wes’s bride of more than four decades, is there to help you with your purchase. One of the first things Wes wanted to communicate for the purposes of this article came through a large lump in his throat, and that is his love and appreciation for Marlene in all that she does and is. It took him a minute to be able to push through and say, “Marlene is the glue that holds us all together.” Then, after he had recovered a bit, he said with that trademark sassy grin, “Just like Job, God was blessing me, and He’s still testing her.” He also took a goodly amount of time to thank their hard-working and loyal crew and say how proud he was of them. When Wes says that they are family, you know he means it.

By way of history, the 300-plus acres on both sides of Hwy 72 that comprise Isom’s Orchard was purchased in increments by Wes’s grandfather, Edison Kent Isom, beginning in 1933. Thankfully, the family approach to farming as always been what could be considered “old-school,” in that it involves crop rotation and letting the land rest without apology. Back in the day, they used as a manual a book published by what is now known as Auburn University, and its focus was to get high yield without wearing out the land. Wes’s dad, Joe, who passed away just this past December, opened up the produce stand as we know it today in 1957, and did a robust business in the summertime selling peaches. Wes grew up working in the orchard and on the farm, and he and Marlene will tell you that they know without a doubt that this is their life’s work. In 1966, Joe added apple trees. I learned from Wes that peach and apple trees have a fairly predictable life span, which is 15-18 years for peaches, and up to 25 years for apples. You have to plan well in advance for replacing them, because especially with peach trees, you can’t tell from the outside if they are dying.

With further regard to peach trees, due to the brutal freeze, last year’s crop was only about 15% of the usual, and it was a tough year for the orchard. “This year’s crop is good,” Wes told me, and he added, “It’s not all the way to what it was, but it is still good.” The weather challenges this year have been due to having so much rain, and that has delayed the flower crop. “We will have one, it just won’t be as soon as we are used to,” he said. The flowers, like everything else at Isom’s, are worth waiting for, and will soon be available for U-pick. They also will have what is essentially a photographer’s field. That means that photographers can pay for a session to take pics of the flowers themselves, or as a place to stage portraits. New to the Isom’s lineup this year are freshly made donuts on the weekends. The flavors are blueberry and strawberry, and when fall comes, the flavors will be pumpkin and apple.

Autumn is just as much a part of the “Isom’s Experience” as is the summertime. Pumpkins are Wes’s favorite crop to grow, and they always have a massive “punkin patch.” There are several types of apples, gourds for Martins, a scarecrow contest, cider for sale, and slushies that are made only from the

orchard’s own cider with no added sugar. I can tell you from experience that the slushies are so good that they easily cause brain freeze because you can’t wait to taste them!

You owe it to yourself to make Isom’s Orchard part of your summer and fall experience in Limestone County. Stop by today and buy a taste of fresh-picked deliciousness that can only come from people who love the land and somehow manage to put that love into what comes forth from the land. The one and only Isom’s Orchard is here for you and your family, and Lord willing, will keep on “doing their life’s work” for years to come.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner