There's not much in this world that's more wholesome than picking apples, especially if they're grown organically. When you factor in the results of a recent study that found apples are U.S. kids' favorite fruit, then a family trip to a pick-your-own apple orchard sounds like a mighty fine plan this apple season. Below, we've selected the cream of the crop of pick-your-own apple orchards, with a particular focus on growers of organic apples and heirloom varieties. If you can't find an orchard near you in our list, Orange Pippin is a great resource that has interactive maps listing orchards by U.S. state, Canadian province, and international locations. A common theme on the orchardists' websites is that climate change is having a noticeable effect on apple variety harvest times, so it's often recommended to check farms' Facebook pages for the most up-to-date information about which varieties are currently available. Also, remember that domestic animals aren't generally allowed in commercial orchards, so please leave your furry family members at home when you go visit. Happy picking!
Photo: Fishkill Farms via Facebook
1. Fishkill Farms, New York
Fishkill Farms is a historic orchard that’s been family-owned for around a century. As well as their 40 acres of pick-your-own apples, they have peaches, nectarines, black currants, cherries, and pumpkins available as PYO when in season. Farm-grown veggies and preserves are also sold through the farm store. All vegetables are grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Integrated Pest Management is used in the apple orchards to minimize chemical use, some orchard plots are grown using organic standards though they are not certified, and the entire orchard is certified sustainably grown by Eco Apple. Apple varieties include eating apples, pie apples and cider apples. Pick-your-own is available 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Photo: Small Ones Farm via Facebook
2. Small Ones Farm, Massachusetts
Why the name Small Ones Farm? Owners Bob and Sally Fitz say, “We envision the farm as a place for children to be nourished—in body and mind—by what is grown here. This focus on children influences our growing practices (we use natural processes and materials) and it fuels our vision for children’s programs on the farm.” Small Ones Farm grows their more than 50 varieties of apples under the Certified Naturally Grown program, and pick-your-own is available at the Amherst orchard over the weekends throughout the apple season, generally from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
3. Vergers Philion, Quebec
As a Montrealer, I am very happy to make a personal recommendation for Vergers Philion, a gorgeous organic apple and pear orchard near the Quebec–US border that has been in the Philion family for six generations. The orchard has 17 varieties of apples and several types of pears: our favorites are their late-season Russets—a delicious and firm apple with a not-so-retail-friendly khaki-brown skin. Don’t be fooled by appearances! Vergers Philion has easy-picking trees and beautiful grounds, and on our visits the air has been buzzing with ladybugs, a guarantee of the orchard’s organic credentials. Pick-your-own is available every day of the apple season, and the farm store sells plenty of apple-based goodies too.
Photo: Eden Acres Family Farm
4. Eden Acres Family Farm, Maine
Eden Acres Family Farm has a wonderful story: once southern Maine’s only organic pick-your-own orchard, it fell into neglect around the turn of the century, shortly after a large selection of heirloom apple varieties were planted. Fast forward 15 years, and the Quincannon family were looking to make a tree change. Wanting to get closer to nature, they sold up in New Jersey and went exploring Maine, the childhood state of Bryan Quincannon. While looking at a school for the kids, the family was asked if they’d like to live on a nearby 26-acre apple orchard. One thing led to another, and the Quincannon’s are now the proud owners of more than 700 organically grown apple trees, with more than 30 varieties in the orchard. Pick-your-own is available 9 to 5 Wednesdays to Sundays, and Mondays and Tuesdays by appointment only.
Photo: Organics Farm
5. Organics Farm, Ontario
Organics Farm converted from conventional to organic farming in 2001. Around 20 apple varieties are available over the pick-your-own season, and the farm recommends to call ahead for recorded updates on what’s picking at the time of your visit. Varieties include eating, pie, cider and sauce apples. Seasonal vegetables and farmhouse products are also available for purchase from the farm store. Organics Farm is open 9–6 weekdays and 9–5 weekends. There’s a $10 minimum purchase for all entrants to the pick-your-own site aged 3 and over.
Photo: Gabriel Farm via Yelp
6. Gabriel Farm, California
Gabriel Farm is a 14-acre organic farm near Sebastopol, California. The farm grows four varieties of apples, nine varieties of Asian pears, and Fuyu persimmons, to name a few. U-pick on the farm is run as a membership program due to high demand for the farm’s limited supplies. For the membership fee of a $36 case of juice each year, members secure the chance to pick and purchase whatever is in season on the farm. Gabriel Farm is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends throughout the harvest season.
Photo: Earth First Farms
7. Earth First Farms, Michigan
Earth First Farms is a certified organic orchard and farm, 100 miles from Chicago in southwest Michigan. The farm has around 3,500 apple trees, as well as strawberries and vegetables in season. Earth First Farms are open for u-pick from 10 until 6, Friday to Sunday, until the end of October. Prices are just $1 per pound. In addition to u-pick, the farm offers an annual rent-a-tree program, which entitles participants to all the fruit off of one tree for that year. There’s also a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) that offers members a total of 60 pounds of ready-picked fruit for $75 per apple season; fruit is collected every two weeks in 10-pound lots.
Photos: Scott Farm Orchard
8. Scott Farm Orchard, Vermont
Scott Farm Orchard near Dummerston, VT, is open for pick-your-own apples from 9 to 5, seven days a week, from September into October. Ecologically grown PYO apples include McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Jonagold and Spigold, but the farm also grows over 100 varieties of heirloom and unusual apples, sold in season through the Farm Market. Sunday October 11, 2015 is the orchard’s annual Heirloom Apple Day, when visitors can discover the weird and wonderful delights of heirloom varieties that often don’t make it onto grocery store shelves.
Lead photo by Beverley Mitchell