Steve Charles—On a cold, windy spring day in 2003 I was visiting Professor Scott Feller’s farm when I noticed an odd-looking contraption with cranks and buckets in the laboratory-clean ‘tack room’ of his barn.
"That’s the cider press we just ordered," Scott said, pointing out the little black plaque that read: "Specially handcrafted for Scott and Wendy Feller, Happy Valley Ranch, Paola, Kansas."
Both Scott and Wendy grew up on farms in Oregon—Scott’s dad was a dentist, so his was more of a hobby farm. But Wendy’s family were large-scale farmers. So soon after Scott arrived to teach chemistry at Wabash, the couple had bought this property as a place for their family to work and relax together and stay in touch with the values and pleasures Scott and Wendy had grown up with.
The cider press was a way to extend that a bit, Scott said. He talked about his and Wendy’s notion of inviting friends, and colleagues out to the farm some autumn afternoon to get the feel and, literally, a taste of the Indiana countryside.
So last week, when I received an invitation to a "Cider Squeeze" at the Feller Farm on Sunday, I just had to see how this now annual event had turned out.
It was sweet and refreshing as a gulp of cider on a gorgeous fall day.
About 50 plus friends of Scott, Wendy, and their kids stopped by, transforming one pasture into county fair-like parking lot, mixing their conversation with the occasional bleats and baahs of the farm’s goats and sheep.
Scott and Professor Charlie Blaich, longtime friends who have collaborated on various projects at Wabash (including the first Celebration of Student Research and Creative work), grilled lamb burgers over flames that only occasionally got out of control (like most Feller/Blaich collaborations!).
And master chef and Professor Rick Warner wisely stepped back and took it all in.
Younger kids tossed apples into the chute while older kids—and, later, Scott and Professor Dan Rogers—worked the press. And the rest of us talked with other guests, wandered the farm, pet the goats, sheep, or Hannah the Morgan horse.
It was a relaxing, wonderful time, bringing together the Fellers’ 4-H, Crawfordsville community theater, school, and Wabash friends. This little farm intended to introduce their kids to the work, values, and pleasures of the family farm has enriched their friends’ and colleagues lives, too. And there’s even a touch of Wabash heritage there—Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Roy Miller’s old Ford tractor still works the land here.
Click here for a few photos of the afternoon.
Thanks, Scott, Wendy, Amanda, and Jake.
Photo above: Jake Feller works the cider press.