WESTWARD ORCHARDS, Harvard
Co-owner Karen Green, who grew up here, says that this 275-acre farm started out as a summer place for her grandfather Ernst Hermann, dean of the Sargent School at Boston University. After her father studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, “he got serious about growing them and started Westward Orchards,” she says. Now the fourth generation of the family is learning the ropes. In addition to pick-your-own fruit and pumpkins, a former dairy barn at the orchard sells gourmet delicacies, produce, and baked goods. A lunch counter serves sandwiches, soups, cider doughnuts, and other goodies. Bluegrass musicians play on Sundays, with other special events unfolding during the season. 178 Mass. Ave. (Route 111), 978-456-8363, westwardorchards.com, Wed-Mon (closed Tue) 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
SHOLAN FARMS, Leominster
“This is the last large commercial orchard in Johnny Appleseed’s birthplace,” says Joanne DiNardo, president of Friends of Sholan Farms. The nonprofit successfully pressed the city to purchase the 169-acre property in 2001, saving it from development. Although the city still owns the property, the Friends group runs everything — the 30-acre orchard, community gardens, berry patches, and a 40-acre wildlife meadow — with no city funding and largely volunteer labor. The 300-year-old farm now sustains itself on fruit sales, festivals, tours, and private donations. “And we’re running in the black,” DiNardo says. Visitors can hike 28 miles of trails or pick the 37 varieties grown here. Picnic tables and gazebos make it a popular wedding spot. “In September, we have a bride riding in on a black stallion,” says DiNardo. 1125 Pleasant St., 978-840-3276, sholanfarms.com, daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., check for events, group tours by appointment.
RED APPLE FARM, Phillipston
This hilltop farm has existed since 1912 — along with the oldest commercially planted McIntosh apple tree in New England, planted here the same year. Al Rose, and his wife, Nancy, make the fourth generation to own and operate the 67 acres of orchards — though what they do goes beyond raising 50 varieties of apples. A petting zoo, hayrides, evening bonfires, and barbecues are among the activities going on throughout fall and early winter. The farm also hosts private functions and public festivals such as the upcoming Appleseed Country Fair. And in this centennial anniversary year, the Roses added an outdoor brick oven to bake apple crisp on cool fall days. 455 Highland Ave., 800-628-4851, redapplefarm.com, daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m., check for special events and evening bonfires.
CLARKDALE FRUIT FARMS, Deerfield
The third generation to run his family’s fruit farm, Tom Clark knows a lot about apples for a man who studied metal smithing in college. “It helps to have an artistic outlook,” he says. “My father is the one who studied agriculture.” Now Clark is breaking in his son Ben, who majored in theater lighting. Yet Clark knows the 50-plus varieties of apples he raises, not to mention peaches, plums, pears, and grapes. Normally, the farm offers pick-your-own in its McIntosh orchard, but this year a late spring frost damaged it, canceling that option. But visitors will find Macs and dozens of other varieties packed in bags in the farm’s store. The rural scenery in this hill country near Old Deerfield Village makes for a rewarding day trip or a weekend stay. 303 Upper Road, 413-772-6797, clarkdalefruitfarms.com, daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m., except Thanksgiving.
APEX ORCHARDS, Shelburne Falls
When Tim Smith says his 350-acre farm commands “one of the most spectacular views in New England,” it’s no empty boast. The 180-degree view on this hilltop perch west of the Connecticut River takes in Mount Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire, and the hills in between. Smith, the seventh-generation family member here, says the hill country microclimate makes for particularly fine-tasting apples. “In my opinion, flatter, hotter climates produce a softer apple, without the crunch,” says Smith. “There’s nothing like apples that come from hill farms.” A chance to pick with a stunning panorama, or buy the in-season fruit at the store, are the sole visitor attractions. 153 Peckville Road, 413-625-2744, apexorchards.com, farmstanddaily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., PYO early September to mid-October.
Jane Roy Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.