What could be more quintessentially New England than to spend a crisp autumn day at a pick-your-own apple orchard sampling tasty varieties with wistful plans of making pie or crisp? In “From Crabby to Sweet” (Design New England September/October 2013), a history of apple growing in the region, contributing editor Bruce Irving mentions two such destinations, Champlain Orchards and Liberty Orchard, both in Vermont, but there are plenty of equally inviting orchards welcoming visitors throughout the region.
At Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, there is a fabulous view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks and organic apples, pears, and raspberries ripe for the picking. Or take home some of the orchard’s baked goods and homemade cider. Its famous double crust apple pies are shipped and sold in select stores throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and eastern New York. On September 15, Champlain hosts the annual Tour de Farms & Shady Rill, an all-day festival with live music and fresh produce along with bicyclists riding 10, 25, and 30-mile routes.
Liberty Orchard in Brookfield, Vermont, grows apples you’ve probably never heard of. That’s because these varieties were developed by Cornell University students to be disease and scab-resistant. Though the varieties are not organic, the apples at Liberty Orchard require significantly less agricultural chemicals than those found at your average grocery store.
Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, Massachusetts, is 145-acres that includes a pumpkin patch that invites children to select and carve their own pumpkins. The farm also features hayrides, swings, a chicken coop, and goats. Hot and sugary cider donuts are made fresh on the premises every day, never letting down the hungry customer. Cider Hill also pays tribute to bees: Inside the market store is a working colony with a queen bee that can be both scary and thrilling to watch from the other side of the glass.
Perhaps the most gorgeous apple orchard in New England, Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, New Hampshire, brags an 80-mile view of rolling hills and mountains, which only adds to the list of reasons to visit. Along with an assortment of fresh fruit and vegetables, the farm serves homemade ice cream and is a prime location for weddings.
For a special all-apple treat, head over to Southington, Connecticut, for the 45th Annual Apple Harvest Festival, which has drawn more than 100,000 visitors in years past. The festival offers entertainment, contests, carnival rides, and of course food and is set for the weekends of October 4 to 6 and October 11 to 13, with a fireworks show on October 5 and a parade on October 6.