10 Great Pick-Your-Own Apple Orchards for Fall 2012
Stranded in the Floridian heat for the remainder of the year, I’m beginning to feel that old creeping autumn nostalgia that swells in every northerner’s heart come mid-September. What are normally my most cherished months will contain none of my favorite fall festivities this time around. I foresee no bonfires, hayrides, mugs of hot cider, leaves exploding with color, cool-weather hiking sprees or that exciting first unfurling of my favorite scarf. With much longing and homesickness, I started looking into apple-picking orchards in Florida. They do not exist. Florida’s climate does not allow for efficient apple farming. Apparently apples hate the heat as much as I do.
There are tons of top orchard lists on the Internet, but most of them focus almost exclusively on New England and the Midwest. I wanted to put together a broader sampling that would be of use not only to folks in the north, but also to displaced autumn-lovers like myself. Here are 10 farms from across the country that will allow you to pick your own apples this fall. Sorry Floridians; I honestly couldn’t find a single orchard.
OHIO: Stahl’s Farm Market
Forgive me for beginning with a little home-state pride. Graced by Johnny Appleseed himself, Ohio plays host to over a hundred orchards, located primarily in the state’s northeastern region. Every year, Stahl’s Farm Market holds a pick-your-own-Apples event at its North Benton location. With a history dating back to the 1950s, this family-owned farm offers several varieties including McIntosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, IdaReds and more. You can also pick your own pumpkins and tomatoes.
CALIFORNIA: Willowbrook Apple Farm
This place is adorable. Run by the Swanson in Oak Glen, this little country farm grows Stayman Winesap apples in a 100-year-old orchard. They don’t offer all the live-music and face-painting frills of some of the other orchards, but as a tiny family establishment, Willowbrook can offer a quieter, more intimate apple-picking experience. If you like, you can press gallon of your very own cider or take a hayride across the ground. Be sure to say ‘hi’ to the incumbent mascots, Blossom and Comet–a surly looking black hog and an adorable miniature horse.
MASSACHUSETTS: Apple Lane Farm
Founded as a farm in 1838, Apple Lane has been operating as an orchard for over a century. It sits atop a hill in Lancaster with a sweeping view of the Northern Worcester County Hills. Most apples grown here are McIntosh, but Apple Lane does produce a handful of other reds, yellows and greens. Horse lovers have even more incentive to visit the farm. Apple Lane breeds and sells beautiful horses bred specifically for “soundness, athleticism and temperament.”
TEXAS: Hi Plains Orchard
Having no luck tracking down orchards in Florida, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in Texas. To my surprise, Texas no only grows apples, but prides itself on a the climate’s impact on the apple crop. According to Texas apple farmers, the longer growing season makes for a more flavorful crop. Located near Lubbock in west Texas, Hi Plains Orchard has apple-picking, a wedding gazebo, plenty of cider and bakery with tantalizing treats like German Apple Cake.
NEW YORK: Applewood Orchards
Deep in the Hudson Valley, Applewood Orchards in Warwick is an veritable epicenter of autumn. Offering a 8 varieties of fresh, crisp apples, the farm opens for picking every day at 9:00AM. On the weekends, the festivities include live music, puppet shows, hay rides and face-painting. The apple donuts are allegedly to die for, so be sure to stop by the shop for a taste. Applewood also sells honey, herbs, pies and more.
GEORGIA: Hillcrest Orchards
I’m slightly crushed that I wasn’t able to pinpoint a single apple orchard in Florida. If the yearning becomes utterly unbearable, I may just have to venture north to Georgia for a weekend. Near Ellijay in the North Georgia Mountains, Hillcrest Orchards hosts an annual “Apple Pickin’ Jubilee,” a name that tickles me to the core. There are plenty of apples to pick, but the Jubilee offers so, so much more. Participants can milk Buttercup the cow, romp about on the Giant Jumping Pillow, watch piglets race for an Oreo cookie prize, watch a live beekeeping demonstration and visit the Moonshine Museum. I’m serious when I say this sounds awesome.
UTAH: Paradise Valley Orchard Pickings
Seriously? Utah has pick-your-own apple orchards and Florida doesn’t? Sheer injustice. Check out Paradise Valley in the city of Paradise. The farm usually grows McIntosh, Jonathon, Cortland, Macoun, Gala, Honeycrips and Jonagold apples. They also sell pre-picked apples, offer jugs of delcious cider and do custom cider pressings.
KANSAS: Wagon Wheel Orchard
West rural Kansas is home to the predictably named but very lovely Wagon Wheel Orchard. The 2,000-tree orchard is located on the California and Oregon trails. Another small family operation, Wagon Wheel claims to have the world’s most diverse pick-your-own orchard. They boast over 1,000 varieties of apples, cherries, peaches, pears and more.
VIRGINIA: Stribling Orchard
For over 200 years, the Stribling Orchard has been run and operated by the same family. Housed in Markham, Stribling offers breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As one of the first Pick-Your-Own orchards in the Shenandoah Valley, the farm is notably historic, its main house dating back to the 18th century. Swing by the shop for sweets and jams and pop by on Columbus day for a festival full of arts, crafts, music and animals.
OREGON: Kiyokawa Family Orchards
Part of the Hood River Valley in Parkdale, Kiyokawa Family Orchards has been in operation for over a century. The soil of the valley drinks glacial waters under the careful watch of Mt. Hood. The unique growing environment allows Kiyokawa to produce over 80 types of apples and pears. The Honeycrisp harvest in October is always a big deal and include hay rides, orchard tours, applesauce samples and caramel apples for purchase. If you can’t make it to the Orchard, Kiyokawa sells at a number of farmer markets throughout the region, promoting sustainability and buying local.