Pick Your Own Time: An Apple (Or Plum, Pear, Or Pumpkin) A Day
Photo courtesy of Kwaree Blog
By Tim Eustis
Having gorged ourselves on the summer fruits and vegetables of our area, it’s time now to explore the autumnal offerings at pick-your-own orchards and farms. Apples galore are everywhere, and you can also find mums, plums, pears, pumpkins, and even broccoli. If you’re feeling stagnant in your cooking, just visit one of these local treasures and you’re sure to be re-inspired: think local pork chops grilled with a cider glaze, homemade apple sauce on the side, roasted potatoes, and a local hard cider or Pinot Noir. There’s also a special sensation to the experience itself. As Suse Wicks, the store manager of Great Barrington’s Windy Hill Farms (above), says, “people aren’t used to picking their own food,” and when they come down the hill from seeing the majestic views of Monument Mountain and Belchertown State Park, “they’re speechless. To be so close to nature affects you externally and internally — it’s primal.”
Many of these locations will have vegetable stands and farm stores with pies, cheeses, jams, and ice cream, plus activities for children like hayrides, pumpkin decorating contests, and more. It’s a literal cornucopia of fruits and veggies and things to do. Of course, it’s all seasonal, and different varieties and fruits come and go, so calling ahead is advised.
Angevine Farm, Warren. Known for its PYO Christmas trees in the winter, they’re now open for pumpkin picking. On the first Sunday in October, they present Pumpkin-Palooza, with pumpkin-based games for children, a band, and pumpkins galore. (Open on weekends.)
The Action Wildlife Foundation, Goshen, is known for its drive-thru safari, petting zoo, and exotic animals, as well as a museum showcasing mounted animals from North and South America and Africa. Katie, who works there, boasts that they “have a zebra,” something you can’t find just anywhere. Starting the first weekend in October, they’ll offer hayrides and guided tours of the animals on the property. Children will find, in various locations, pumpkins for them to take home. The farm store has pre-picked pumpkins, as well as jams and other local offerings. (Runs through October 31, open Thursdays through Sundays.)
Barden Farm, New Hartford. A simple, but well-stocked, PYO farm focusing on pumpkins. They’ll have hayrides and a pumpkin decorating contest the first weekend of October, starting at 1 p.m. (Open seven days a week.)
Love Apple Farms, Ghent. Some of the different varieties of apples at LAF’s PYO include Czestar, Gala, Ginger Gold, and Macoun. What they’re really known for, however, are the authentic Mexican lunches cooked by Laetitia Martinez, who’s been there for the over 21 years. Her tacos and tamales, in particular, should not be missed. They have a playground for kids, hayrides, and a pumpkin PYO. The farm store has seasonal fruit and the requisite jams, pies, and donuts. (Open seven days a week.)
Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, has the rare offering of PYO vegetables, such as broccoli, beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and peppers, as well as the “big, apple PYO season” (above left) which is in full swing. They’ll have pumpkins, too. At their garden market, just down the road from the farm, is a Corn Maze, petting zoo, and homemade ice cream stand, as well a cider mill. (Open seven days a week.)
Ioka Farms, Hancock. PYO offerings here include pumpkins and Indian corn, but there’s also hayrides, a petting zoo, pedal-cart racing, and decorated pumpkin races. Plus, take a hay-wagon train ride, or visit the rather David Letterman-ish sounding “pumpkin slingshot.” (Some activities have a small fee, the rest are free.) The farm store sells pies, cider donuts, and sandwiches. (Now open on weekends through October).
Bartlett’s Orchard, Richmond, is justly famous for their heavenly cider donuts. Owner Cindy Bartlett also trumpets the variety of apples they have, saying that, with the rise in popularity of juicing, people ask which ones are best for that particular endeavor. She recommends beginning with a McIntosh base, which gives the most juice, and add Idared, Northern Spry, and Red Delicious for their body and dense flavors. Bartlett’s also has PYO flowers and pumpkins. Their farm store is well stocked with grocery items, their own freshly ground peanut butter, and… did we mention cider donuts? (Open all week long.)
Hilltop Orchards/Furnace Brook Winery, Richmond. Orchard manager David Martell says, “people ask for particular heirloom varieties of apples, such as Macoun or Northern Spry,” but these are only two of the 27 different varieties available, with Honey Crisp and Gala being some of the most popular. On weekends, there’s live music, hayrides, and guided hikes available by appointment. Freshly pressed cider is offered year round, as well as cider donuts and Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. cheeses. Hilltop also makes Johnny Mash hard cider, described by The New York Times as “quite dry tasting but with lovely finesse.” (Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
Barton Orchards, Beekman. This is one of the county’s many PYO farms, with vegetables in season, apples, berries, pumpkins, a garden center, farm market, and gift shop, and homemade products. There are also the requisite number of fall events, with hayrides, music, and a haunted house corn maze the weekend of October 18 & 19. (Open daily through the end of October.)
Greig Farm, Red Hook. The Greig Farm has been open to the public for PYO fruits and vegetables for more than 60 years. Enjoy the ambiance of a century-old dairy barn while perusing local vegetables, fruits, eggs, cheeses, meats, fish, flowers, and more from local Hudson Valley farms, plus plenty of apples (Jonamac, McIntosh, Honey Crisp, Gala, Macoun, Empire, and Ginger Gold) and PYO pumpkins. Open daily, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.