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Corrales’ Wagner Farms cultivates growth with apple, pumpkin festival

Anthony Wagner takes some red delicious apples from one of the 900 trees in the Wagner orchard in Corrales. People will get the chance to pick apples in the orchard during Wagner Farms' Apple & Pumpkin Festival Saturday, Oct. 12, and Sunday, Oct. 13. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Anthony Wagner takes some red delicious apples from one of the 900 trees in the Wagner orchard in Corrales. People will get the chance to pick apples in the orchard during Wagner Farms’ Apple & Pumpkin Festival Saturday, Oct. 12, and Sunday, Oct. 13. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

CORRALES – Limbs weighed down with apples – red delicious, golden delicious, Jonathans, Rome beauty and several other varieties – are swaying in the wind on a recent morning at the Wagner apple orchard, 900 trees on 16 acres between the Wagner Farms market and the Rio Grande.

It’s a partly cloudy morning, but that doesn’t matter because the trees make their own shade every day.

Anthony Wagner reaches up, plucks a red delicious, takes a bite and gestures toward the leafy giants around him.

“Some of these trees are over 40 years old,” Wagner, 61, says. “But we planted those over there eight years ago and those just two years ago. I’m going to start picking apples soon to make cider.”

He will sell the cider during Wagner Farms’ sixth annual Apple & Pumpkin Festival Saturday, Oct. 12, and Sunday, Oct. 13. But you can bet Wagner is going to leave plenty of apples on the trees because a hands-on apple-picking experience is one of the major elements of the festival.

“I started picking apples as a kid,” Wagner says, plucking a couple more to prove he still knows how. “We thought we’d give kids, maybe some who live in the city, a chance to pick their own apples, to see what that’s like.”

Deep roots

The Wagner family has been farming in Corrales for more than 100 years. Anthony’s grandfather settled in Socorro in the late 1800s and moved into Corrales in the early 1900s.

Today, the Wagners grow sweet corn, cucumbers, squash, peaches and apples on 50 acres in Corrales and pumpkins, chile, melons and alfalfa on 200 acres in Socorro.

Wagner said his family started the festival to showcase their farm and the work they do there. The first few years, the festival was the third week in October. Then Wagner decided to move it to the second week of the month to take advantage of the people coming into the area for the final weekend of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

“It has really taken off since our first year,” Wagner said. “It has really exploded on me. We have several thousands of people attending on each day.”

Last year, the lines waiting to get on tractor-drawn hay wagons for rides to the nearby apple orchard got so long that Wagner decided to beef up the transportation for this year’s festival.

“We had seven tractors (from the Corrales Tractor Club) pulling wagons last year,” he said. “This year, we are going to have 12.”

Once at the apple orchard, kids and adults can spread out to pick apples. Long-handled fruit-picking tools will be provided so no one will need to climb a tree.

“We don’t want anyone falling,” Wagner said.

Apples will sell for $5 per 5-pound bag, and people are invited to include some or all eight varieties of the fruit available in the orchard in those bags.

“I want the kids to learn about apples,” Wagner said.

Nick Stern mans the chile roasters at the Wagner Farms market in Corrales. In addition to hayrides, apple picking and live music, people can buy green chile, apple cider and other produce during Wagner Farms' Apple & Pumpkin Festival.

Nick Stern mans the chile roasters at the Wagner Farms market in Corrales. In addition to hayrides, apple picking and live music, people can buy green chile, apple cider and other produce during Wagner Farms’ Apple & Pumpkin Festival.

Pumpkin place

Kids know pumpkins go with Halloween, and Halloween is coming on in a hurry. To meet their jack-o’-lantern needs, Wagner is bringing up about 2,000 pumpkins from the family’s Soccoro fields and will put those in a “pumpkin patch” just behind the Wagner Farms’ market. He said pumpkin prices will range from $4 for the smaller ones to $20 for those in the “Great Pumpkin” category.

Live entertainment at the festival will be provided by Severo y Grupo Fuego from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Radio FigJungle from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday and the David Espinosa Band from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Vintage tractors will also be on display.

“This is all a kid-friendly event,” Wagner said. “We want the kids to see a working farm.”

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