Looking to get out of the office and into the fresh air? Been meaning to do more physical activities and eat more fresh fruit? What about getting in some fun outdoor activities with the family before the cold weather hits? Picking your own apples is the perfect way to check these items off your list.
Franklin County, in Western Massachusetts, has orchards dotting some of the most scenic landscapes in Massachusetts. Pick from century old trees located in orchards that have been in the family for generations or from newer experimental orchards. While you’re at it, take a break, bring a picnic lunch, and take in the scenery or refuel at some of the orchard restaurants. Here are five of our favorite pick your own spots.
Clarkdale Fruit Farms
303 Upper Road, Deerfield, (413) 772-6797
Pick Your Own daily 9am-5pm
Farm Stand open daily 8am-6pm
This fourth-generation family fruit farm located in the beautiful hills of Deerfield grows heirloom apple varieties from trees planted by the first generation of Clarks in1912. As true New England farmers, the Clarks are not ones to rest easy and continue to plant new varieties every year. Clarkdale offers eight pick your own apple varieties to choose from including Macintosh, Ginger Gold, Gala, Empire, Cortland, Macoun, and Jonagold. Looking for that hard to find variety that you won’t find in your local supermarket? The Clarks actually grow over 40 apple varieties including Esopus Spitzenburg, Wolf River, Akane and Pound Sweet. If you’re looking for more for your cornucopia, their farmstand, open 8am-6pm daily, also carries pears, nectarines, plums, grapes and more. They accept credit cards and SNAP EBT. While you’re there, don’t forget to take your picture in front of the iconic Clarkdale apple.
Let’s face it, there are only so many whole apples you can eat, so they conveniently have a few tasty recipes on their website like Lavinia’s Apple Lemon Custard Pie
New Salem Orchards and Preserves
67 South Main Street, New Salem, MA, (978) 544-3437
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm
Spectacular view overlooking Quabbin Reservoir? Check. Location on a farm established in 1750 with 125 year old fruit trees? Check. A barn with fresh pressed cider, just baked cider doughnuts, local cheeses, preserves and apple butter? Yup. You’ll definitely want to bring a picnic lunch and make a day of your trip to this orchard in the historic town of New Salem. The views here are spectacular year round but for a real treat, come at the peak of foliage where you will likely find friends and neighbors savoring hot mulled cider in the barn kitchen. And also the newly opened, one of a kind outdoor Cider Garden, tucked in next to the barn and farm store, is a cozy haven for friends - including the four legged kind - to gather and relax. Enjoy a glass of their award winning cider as you drink in the breathtaking scenery. If you hit it right, you may also find a pop up cider or vinegar making workshop.
Bear Swamp Orchard
1209 B Hawley Road Ashfield, 413-625-2849, 413-768-7989
Organic Pick Your Own starts Sept. 21 and Hard Cider Tasting Room open Fridays - Sundays, 10am – 6pm
Stroll through this ten year old small family-owned certified organic solar powered orchard perched on a hilltop in Ashfield with panoramic views that span Vermont and New Hampshire. With more than 60 different cultivars in varying degrees of production, the Gougeon family grows many great heirloom varieties. Since 2010, the family has focused on identifying new apple varieties that have seeded naturally and grafting them into the orchard.
This is definitely a picnic worthy spot and while you are there, say hi to the chickens and Shetland sheep. Aside from apples you will also find hard ciders, sweet ciders, vinegar (raw, un-pasteurized, untreated), jams and jellies, baked goods, and maple syrup. In case you did not get enough of a workout while you were picking, the orchard borders the Trustees of Reservations Bear Swamp Reserve which offers miles of scenic hiking trails and views of its own.
Pine Hill Orchards
248 Greenfield Rd, Colrain, MA 413-624-3325
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm and Monday holidays
Restaurant open Monday – Friday, 6am-2pm and Saturday and Sunday, 7am-2pm
Matt Shearer, a member of this family-owned 75 acre orchard in Colrain, says people come for the apples but stay for the animals. After picking Macs, Courtlands, Jonagolds, Spencers, Honey Crisps, Macouns, and Galas, he finds visitors lingering for hours at the pond with the cows, goats, potbelly pigs, donkeys and ducks. The on-site restaurant serves delicious comfort food every day from early morning until 2 pm. And there’s more. The orchard’s market has hard and sweet cider, fresh baked pies, cider doughnuts, maple products, crafts, and local meats.
225 Peckville Road, Shelburne, MA, 413-625-2744
Pick Your Own 7 days a week starting in September
Farm Store open for the Season August through December
Use caution as you approach this orchard because the scenic views of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire may very well take your breath away. They don’t call it Apex for nothing. The orchard, which has been in Tim Smith’s family since 1828, now includes apples, peaches, nectarines, apricots, quince, pears, Asian pears, blueberries, table grapes and kiwi. Be sure to pick up some Evercrisp apples, a new variety that stores extremely well.
Aside from fruit, their new 4,000 sq. ft. retail store offers honey products from Smith’s Shelburne Honey Co., maple syrup from the Graves farm in Colrain and the Boyden farm in Conway, Shelburne Cider Vinegar and ciders from Apex, Cabot cheese, Yankee Pastime Farm’s maple cream, Sidehill Farm yogurt and “Just Soap” made in Ashfield. You’ll also find cider doughnuts from Pine Hill Orchard in Colrain.
This spot is on the area’s destination list and you could easily spend an afternoon there with tractor drawn trailer rides, apple picking, in store events, and hanging out on the spacious patio overlooking the vista. And afterward, cross the street for West County Cider’s new hard cider tasting room.
The retail store is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm from August through December. The Winter Store located at 153 Peckville is open December through April.
Tips and resources
Call ahead to find out which apple varieties are currently available for picking or just show up and be surprised. If you’d like to do your own research before heading out, this interactive Apple Finder has pictures, tartness levels, and descriptions of more than 120 varieties grown in New England.
Still haven't satisfied your apple appetite? You can immerse yourself in all things apple with workshops, tours, tastings and more at Franklin County CiderDays. This annual event, held the first weekend in November, features the longest running hard cider tasting in the country.
Why not get some creative ideas on what to do with your apples by taking cooking classes from James Beard Award winning Chef Sanford (Sandy) D'Amato at Good Stock Farm?