Camano orchard bears fruit for Carmelite mission in Africa

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Apples can be picked at Seamist Orchard on Camano Island through Nov. 1. Photo: Courtesy Rose Nicoletti Apples can be picked at Seamist Orchard on Camano Island through Nov. 1. Photo: Courtesy Rose Nicoletti

CAMANO ISLAND – Rose Nicoletti is using her little piece of paradise to support missionary work in Africa.

little girl picks applesApple pickers at Seamist Orchard this year included Lauren, granddaughter of owners Rose and Bruce Nicoletti. The U-pick orchard on Camano Island asks for donations to support a Carmelite mission in Uganda. Photo: Courtesy Rose Nicoletti

Nicoletti, a parishioner at St. Cecilia Parish in Stanwood, is allowing folks to browse through her orchard, pick the fruit they’ll enjoy and make a donation benefiting the Discalced Carmelite Friars’ mission in Uganda.

“We give 100 percent back to the mission,” said Nicoletti, who owns Seamist Orchard on Camano Island with her husband, Bruce.

The Carmelite friars have had a presence since 1989 in Stanwood, where they serve St. Cecelia Parish and operate the Carmelite Institute of Spirituality.

Rose Nicoletti said she decided to use the orchard to help the mission after seeing how the Carmelites serve her parish. “They dedicate their whole entire life helping others,” she said.

The 155-tree orchard is located at 1115 Seamist Lane, on the west side of Camano Island. Apples and pears are in season now, but apricot and peach trees also grow on the land. Visitors can pick fruit until Nov. 1.

When the Nicolettis took ownership of the orchard, it was abandoned and infested with rats and blackberry bushes. It required years of work for the couple, who both have landscaping backgrounds, to restore the orchard to productivity.

“It’s amazing to see how these trees have bounced back,” Nicoletti said, describing the orchard as “kind of like the Garden of Eden.”

you pick apple sign
Every year, the owners of Seamist Orchard on Camano Island invite people to pick fruit and make a donation to support a Carmelite mission in Uganda. Photo: Courtesy Rose Nicoletti

Most visitors to the orchard pick the fruit they want to take, leaving a donation to benefit the African mission. “It’s really fun to see families come out and pick,” Nicoletti said. Each year, the orchard raises $600 to $1,500 for the mission.

The money helps in a variety of ways, from funding the education of seminary students to paying for the educational needs of a child, according to Carmelite Father David Costello of California, who oversees the mission.

The religious order began its presence in Uganda in 2002, serving at a mission parish in Jyengeza, Mityana Diocese. In 2008, the friars opened a house of training that is now home to 10 students, a priest and a professed brother.

The focus on training new priests and brothers meant the friars had to pull out of the mission parish. Father Costello said they hope to return when more native priests are ordained, and would like to someday establish a spirituality institute and retreat center in Uganda.

After Seamist Orchard closes in November, the Nicolettis will pick the remaining fruit and press it into cider. Then they’ll spend the winter maintaining the trees and mowing the grass, preparing the orchard for another season to support the Carmelite mission.