As the leaves change from green to orange to red, and as safety and social distancing stay at the forefront of our thoughts, Bostonians look for appropriate fun, festive, fall activities. Some turn to pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving, and pumpkin spice lattes; some turn to hiking. However, for many, apple picking and all of the aesthetics associated with it will always hold a special place in their hearts.
The pandemic put a lot of pressure on agriculture as purchasing patterns changed, with people purchasing food with a longer shelf life, and corporations, like restaurants, purchasing less food. While many farms have been hurt, some small farms have actually been experiencing an increase in demand this fall. It seems as if the farms that fared better were the small farms that catered to the few, producing an abundance of crops, instead of the factory farms that catered to the masses, producing a single, solitary crop. It seems the farms that fared better were those that were more accessible to their communities.
The pandemic also put a lot of pressure on agrotourism, as people stayed home and stayed away from planning gigantic gatherings, like weddings. Pick-your-own-fruit/vegetable patches have been experiencing an increase in demand, or at least a different kind of demand, this fall. It appears pick-your-own patches are flourishing despite being limited in their accommodation of substantial events and sizable groups and gatherings. The big, busy days full of corporate and student trips have been replaced with days full of required small-group reservations. The local customers have been joined with more out-of-town customers. The lines are longer, even if only to allow for more space, and masks are abundant. Pick-your-own patches have proven to have all of the proper precautions in place for a perfect day.
Honey Pot Hill Orchards is notorious for its popular pick-your-own patch. It is a fourth generation family farm in Stow, Mass, easily accessed from the four neighboring towns. It is located past numerous twists and turns through the beautiful New England fall foliage. At arrival, the farm animals welcome the wondrous visitors with a “baa” and an “oink oink.” The farm is extremely expansive, sitting with its store above rows upon rows of trees and ladders. The farm even has a hayride that can be taken to travel to the apples. A couple of conversations with two of Honey Pot Hill’s “apple ambassadors,” situated along the apple picking trail, revealed that the 200 acre orchard boasts of over 10,000 apple trees, with over 10 apple types, ranging from Gravensteins to Ginger Golds. It also revealed how Honey Pot Hill has adapted to the pandemic: with hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations, social distancing standards, and more.
Honey Pot Hill is as bright and bubbly as ever. The orchard offers all of the apple necessities, like apple cider, apple cider donuts, and caramel apples, along with hayrides, hedge mazes, and more. “There’s something there for everyone,” said Peyton Wilson, MCAS ‘22, in a recent interview. “There’s no entry fee, and there’s lots of free, fun activities!” The orchard offers a true taste of autumn. Honey Pot Hill Orchards, as well as other orchards, provide a great way for Bostonians to get their apple a day, even if it is in the form of an apple cider donut.
The pandemic has certainly put a lot of pressure on agriculture, and even on agrotourism. With limited indoor activities, apple picking is an outdoor activity that can provide a sense of safety, coupled with some adventure, for everyone.
Cover photo courtesy of The Boston Globe