By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Sep 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM

I just wanted to pick some apples with my family. So last weekend, I abandoned my normal go-to fruit picking farm, Barthel’s in Mequon, to take a gander at Apple Holler in Sturtevant.

Big mistake.

I probably should’ve looked at the 500 cars with Illinois plates and kept on driving to the Mars Cheese Castle. But I stood in line long enough to realize that the cost of entry for picking apples for a family of three was $60 (not counting apples, of course). I couldn’t bring myself to pay that, so I instead plunked down $24 to pet some baby goats and wander around a playground with my wife and 6-year-old.

Sunday morning, we regrouped and headed back to Mequon, although not to Barthel’s. On a friend’s tip, we visited R-Apples (Roesch Farm), right next door at 12422 Farmdale Rd. What a wonderful, low-key experience.

Not only was it peaceful and quiet, we picked apples and pears of many different varieties. Then we headed to their vegetable garden, and picked peppers and raspberries.

The cool summer has delayed all of these crops, so tons are still available – and will be for weeks. As usual, my child’s short attention span meant we only stayed for an hour, but had we continued, we could’ve also picked tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, dill, parsley, basil, chives and mint. This farm has it all.

Best of all: I used the peppers we picked to cook chili on Sunday night, and it was easily the best chili I ever made.

We left with lots and lots of produce – at a cost of only $18.25. This is how fruit picking is supposed to be. Not just a folly for wealthy Chicagoan suburbanites who put on flannel shirts to show their kids what the country looks like.

So now I know: the best fruit picking in the area is in Mequon. Barthel’s and R-Apples. With picking running through the end of October, I may even go back again. You should, too.

Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.