The Bassett family tree is full of good apples. Since 1907, the Bassett family of Ski-Hi Fruit Farm has been growing more than 60 cultivars of apples while contributing time and resources to research, education and their community.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will present an Honorary Recognition award to Olga Bassett, 91, in recognition of her efforts and those of her children, Philip A. Bassett and Betty Marie Bassett Thiessen; and the past work of her husband, Art Bassett Jr., and his parents, A.K. and Emma Bassett.
Ski-Hi Fruit Farm near Baraboo has been on the cutting edge of production management throughout the years because of the Bassett”s ingenuity, perseverance, and willingness to adopt new techniques and try new varieties in their pursuit of quality fruit. “Whether one looks at production, marketing, or overall management, the Bassetts have not only been innovative, they have excelled,” said Tom Kriegl, former Sauk County Extension agent.
The Bassetts have worked extensively with researchers and resources at CALS. “They have always been willing to try a new approach to a problem or just to improve a practice,” said extension horticulturist Teryl Roper.
Ski-Hi Fruit Farm tested up to 112 cultivars of apples at once and was one of the first orchards to use sunlight, orchard floor, pest, and weather data management techniques. The Bassetts were among the first growers to keep thorough yield records on the 15,000 bushels of apples they produce in a typical year.
The Bassetts are knowledge-givers as well as knowledge-seekers. Since 1932, they have opened their orchard to the UW-Madison horticulture department for field research, demonstrations, and teaching. The UW Baraboo-Sauk County Center campus has always used Ski-Hi Fruit Farm as an outdoor classroom, and local high school and vocational agriculture classes also learn at Ski-Hi. Olga Bassett has started a fund at the UW-Madison horticulture department in memory of her husband.
The Bassetts have always been involved in industry organizations. At least one member has belonged to the Wisconsin Horticulture Society (now the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association) since 1909, and they have participated in the Sauk County Farmers Union Co-op, Baraboo Garden Club, and Wisconsin Apple and Horticulture Council.
The Bassetts have eagerly collaborated with environmental groups for community environmental benefits. They have belonged to several environmentally-oriented organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Baraboo Hills Hiking Club, Quartzite Club, and the Wisconsin Ornithology Society.
Olga Bassett has been a member of the Wisconsin Horticulture Society since 1935, and was a board member for 15 years and president of the Ladies Auxiliary from 1963 to 1969. She is a member of the University of Wisconsin Bascom Hill Society and an honorary member of UW-Madison Short Course.
The Ski-Hi story wouldn”t be complete without pies. The farm now has a larger salesroom and bakery and participates weekly in the Madison Farmers Market. Homemade pies are the single most popular item on the farm, and sales have grown steadily, with more than 11,000 sold in 1997.
“Today when you visit Ski-Hi Fruit Farm, you can sit down to a piece of pie and ice cream and a glass of apple cider. You can choose among 60 to 70 varieties of apples. You can purchase locally produced honey, maple syrup, pumpkins, asparagus and other items, depending on season. While doing this you can watch pies being made or can gaze outside at the scenery of the Baraboo Bluffs,” said Kriegl. “Ski-Hi Fruit Farm is one of the most outstanding agricultural show places in Sauk County.”