SPEER — Marilyn Tanner is a busy woman. She and her husband, Richard, are one-third owners of Tanners Orchard, but when she’s not helping out wherever she is needed at the farm market, she’s cooking up dishes in the break room kitchen for a Facebook live show called “Cooking With Grandma Tanner.”
The live-feed cooking show is on the Tanners Orchard Facebook page every Thursday at 3 p.m. and is viewed by hundreds of people each week. One week, she might be preparing a Snickers-apple salad, and the next week, it could be apple cake.
The idea to promote her on a weekly cooking show came from her daughter.
“I do whatever my daughter tells me to do,” she joked, before adding, “she’s never steered me wrong.”
And her daughter’s hunch that people would love to see her mother cooking up easy recipes using Tanners Orchard products was a good one.
“It’s snowballed,” Tanner said. “It’s helped our sales, and people come and watch it.”
Over the last several months, Grandma Tanner has cooked up apple dumplings, butternut squash and sausage, peach pie, and several different kinds of dips. She’s thinking about featuring some holiday dishes in the future.
Tanner said she is amazed at the number of people who recognize her from the cooking videos and approach her at the orchard.
“They will come up and ask, 'Are you Grandma Tanner?'”
At 73, there’s more to Marilyn Tanner than simply a cooking show. Her roots in the Tanners Orchard business and the Tanner family go way back to 1971. She was a nurse from Deer Creek when she married her husband, who was fresh out of the military.
Now, 48 years later, she’s not only a business owner, but the mother of five children and the grandmother of 15. Two of her children are part owners of the orchard, which has vastly expanded over the years.
“In the early '90s, we sold jam and honey,” she said.
Before that — and she has photos to prove it — the orchard was nothing more than a small roadside stand that sold apples and cider. Today, the recent addition of a Morton building has expanded the business into a strip mall-sized location.
In the back, off a hallway, high technology comes into play when employees use a retinal scanner to clock in for work.
Industrial ovens bake up dozens of pies and loaves of bread at once. More than 50,000 caramel apples are made and sold each season, along with 50,000 gallons of apple cider, which is made and bottled on the premises.
“One million doughnuts were sold last year,” Tanner said.
The orchard is famous for its apple cider doughnuts, which are made on the premises and sold at the bakery alongside 14 different varieties of breads and numerous pie varieties.
There are gift shop items sprinkled throughout the space and a section for pre-packaged food items that include sauces, relishes, soups and butters.
Seventeen varieties of apples are grown on the property. Visitors can either buy their apples by the bag indoors or pick their own.
In addition, the Tanner corn maze, which changes from year to year, also uses cutting-edge technology. The corn maze isn’t cut into its maze shape after the corn grows, but instead the corn is planted to grow into the maze, Tanner explained.
Around back is the “Back 40 Fun Acres" with different farm-themed activities for kids.
Tanner estimates that as many as 6,000 visit Tanners Orchard each weekend day.
“We wanted this place to be a destination.”
The orchard is open from August through November. The current hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.