Ron and Nancy Marks own an apple orchard of 11 Macintosh apple trees.  Every year their family (including Erik, Ike, Kathie, Bethany, Freddie and Joe) choose a non-profit to share the “fruits of our labor” as apples are harvested   Friends, family and our church community are invited  to come help pick apples, make apple juice and cut up apples for pies. People come and help and take home some juice and have the option to purchase additional juice or apples by making a donation.

Marks’ Family Apple Days

On a crisp October morning, I arrive at the home and orchard of the Marks family. Every year Ron and Nancy invite apple enthusiasts to their home to help with the harvest. Apples are picked, collected, sorted, crushed, and pressed into apple juice. The event benefits a non-profit each year through the sale of half gallons of juice. This year, the family supports the ELCA’s Good Gifts outreach, a program that provides support for our siblings in need across the globe. Their gift will become, in a poetically just way, fruit tree seedlings given to families.

I am there several days after the “main event,” to help with what Ron calls the “gleaning” of the orchard. Freddie Marks, Ron and Nancy’s grandson, leads me out into the orchard to help collect the apples I will drop to the ground. Freddie shows me each of the trees in the orchard named after him and his siblings. Each child has their own tree, and I can tell Freddie is proud of his. I ascend a tall metal ladder with an extending picking tool, a basket with metal claws on one side for grabbing the apples from high places. As I climb into the canopy of the tree, I’m thinking about time. I was once as young as Freddie, helping with the harvest in this orchard.

The layers of time are also physically rooted in the ground. These trees are old, planted by a farmer who hoped they would bear fruit. The farmer chose a variety that would grow well in the area, the McIntosh. Over time, various owners of the orchard cared for (or neglected) the trees.

Ron and Nancy have stewarded the trees for many years. I have been to the orchard in the spring too, to help with the careful pruning. And now Freddie is adopting his own sense of care for these trees, too. We don’t always get to know the people who will benefit from our practices of tending and caring for Creation, but sometimes we do.

ELCA Good Gifts for Fruit Tree Farms

This year the proceeds from their orchard will go to ELCA GOOD GIFTS for Fruit Tree Farms.  Special varieties of fruit trees — such as mango, orange and guava — are known to thrive in the driest of conditions, even drought. These low-maintenance trees are an investment in the community that can span generations, protecting the soil from erosion and providing nutritious fruit to children and adults alike.  $150 purchases one Fruit Tree Farm!  $10 purchases a tree!

To learn more about the ELCA GOOD GIFTS

 Of course, we experience a singular moment that ties us to all tenses of time during worship each Sunday when we share in the meal of Holy Communion. We taste and are part of the same feast alongside our ancestors of faith. Our holy moment when we receive wine and bread is only possible because of their care and tending. This meal also ties us to the future, reminds us to care and tend to our community, to share in the work together and take joy in the harvest. I wonder what seedlings of faith will be planted in our lifetime that will bear fruit in another. This Missoula Valley we share is full of abundance and possibility. Let us meet the moment with our hands and hearts.

“See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”     – Isaiah 43:19

Colter Murphy works with the Missoula-area ELCA churches to offer shared children, youth and family faith development opportunities. This article is an excerpt of an larger piece that will be in the Immanuelite. Email:

Donations can be made to Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Donations are welcome! 

  • Make checks out to Immanuel Lutheran – note “apples” with your donation. Send to 830 S Ave West, Missoula 59801
  • DONATE ONLINE: Click button below to donate online.   Choose Apple Days for your donation.