GL Williams was the Johnny Appleseed of Runnells. He started an apple orchard 100 years ago in southeastern Polk County. Willams farmed into his 80s and planted more than 1,000 trees. He eventually brought his son Walter Leo into the family business. Williams’ grandsons, Mike and Les, run the family orchard today.
GL Williams grandson, Mike Williams and his wife Deb now sell Williams & Sons’ apples every Saturday at the North Grand Farmers Market in Ames.
The other son in Williams & Sons, Mike’s younger brother Les, sells apples at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market. Williams & Sons’ apples are also available at Farmers’ Markets in Indianola, Knoxville, Newton, Pella, Prairie City, Southridge Market, and Valley West Market.
“We have about 15 varieties of apples, from summer apples to winter apples,” said Deb.
Williams & Sons sell Cortland, Red and Yellow Delicious, Honey Crisps, Gala, Connell Reds, Johnathan, Jonadel, Chieftain, Jonagold, Snow Apple, Golden Grimes, Fortunes, Jonamacs, and Arkansas Blacks.
“We are known as the home of the Connell Reds," Deb Williams said. “We are the only ones around Iowa that sell the Connell Reds.”
The apples are all home grown locally in Runnells. Most of Williams & Sons apples are picked shortly after Labor Day. The apples are then run through a washer, buffer, and sorted on tables.
The cider is made from the seconds, apples that have a small spot or imperfection. The seconds are ground into cider. No windfalls, or apples that fall on the ground, are used. Those go to the birds and deer.
Matt Scaggs, Des Moines, favors the Connel Reds or the Jonagolds varieties.
“You can’t go wrong with the cider,” Scaggs said.
Williams & Sons apples and cider will be available at the Farmers’ Market in Ames until the last Saturday in October.
Starting next February, Williams & Sons will start pruning their more than 3,000 trees. Between working full time and taking care of their hobby business, the orchard fills up the family’s spring, summer and fall.
“Every week this season we’ve had a different variety of apple that has been ready to pick, said Deb. “People are always interested in trying new apples.”
Deb and Mike Williams welcome everyone to stop by, try a slice, and find a favorite variety of Williams & Sons apples.
“We sell quality apples,” said Deb. “They’re good. They’re home grown.”