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10 Tips for Apple Picking

10 Tips for Apple Picking

It's that time of year again.

Fall is finally here! With Labor Day weekend behind us it’s time to bust out the pumpkin spice coffees and cinnamon-scented candles and get down to some seasonally inspired activities. And what better way to have a wholesome fall day than by going apple picking with your family? This quintessential fall activity is perfect for kids of all ages, whether you’re trying to get your moody teen to spend some time with the family, or you’re looking to take your little ones to a place where they can use their “outside voices.”

Now that you know where to pick apples, it’s time to find out how to pick apples. Though it may seem pretty straightforward, kids can find a way to make anything difficult. Here are local farmers’ best tips for planning your family trip to the farm.

Check what varieties are available.

Especially if you’re picky about your apples, you’ll want to check the farm’s schedule before you head over. Some varieties ripen at different times, while others are only available for a limited time. “The apples you would pick in late August are very different from the apples you’d pick in late October,” says Sarah Potenza, farm manager of Hurds Family Farm. More popular types of apples can run out quickly as well. Most farms have websites, emails, or a telephone number that you can call to find out what’s available.

Call to confirm current conditions. 

“We always recommend that you call to check availability as it can change day to day, or even hour to hour for certain varieties,” advises Katie Ross, marketing and communications manager at Fishkill Farms. There’s nothing more inconvenient than driving all the way out of town only to show up to a closed farm, or one that’s all out of apples. Call to check availability, confirm hours, and make sure they don’t anticipate closing for any severe weather. If you see there might be some storms later on, check out the farm’s weather policy.

Come early to avoid crowds.

Peak times at the farm are usually 12-4pm. If you want to avoid lines, crowds, or dealing with others, try visiting in the morning or on a weekday. Kurt Alstede, a farmer at Alstede Farms, recommends taking a day off during the week or coming on a school holiday. “You can really enjoy everything the farm has to offer, in a very intimate way, if you [visit on] a weekday,” he says.

 Plan to spend a whole day on the farm.

Though many apple picking destinations are a quick drive away, heading to the farm is still a day trip. Bring extra diapers, snacks, sunscreen, and any other supplies you may need to help you make it through a day outside. “You would be surprised at just how much sun you can catch outside in October in the full sun,” Alstede says. You might want to wear hats or sunglasses as well. Though food is typically available for purchase at most farms, you should eat a big breakfast before you arrive. See what other attractions there are in the neighborhood, be it cute villages and homey diners or breathtaking landscapes and natural beauties.

Wear layers.

“We always recommend layers and sturdy footwear,” Ross advises. Nowadays, the weather can change in a heartbeat. “Depending on what time of year you come it can start off kind of cool in the morning and warm up by the afternoon,” Potenza says. Prepare for all sorts of weather and always keep a jacket handy.

Be prepared to carry or cart around little ones.

A day at the farm typically involves being on your feet. Small children may tire easy or have limited mobility, so Potenza suggests taking along a wagon or stroller to cart them through the lanes and carry your necessities and apples. Alstede recommends a stroller with bigger wheels, as small foldable strollers don’t do well on unpaved terrain. For infants, he suggests parents bring a baby carrier so they can carry their child more easily.

Be mindful of bees and yellow jackets.

That’s right, these critters love apples, but don’t worry, you’ll be fine so long as you’re prepared. “Wearing close-toed shoes so you don’t step on a bee is important,” advises Ross.

If you do see a bee, keep your cool. “When people start doing the yellow jacket dance, that’s when the bees get a little more excited,” says Alstede. “They’re actually attracted to the movement.” Lastly, it’s important to remember that the bees are here for the apples, not the people. “As long as you’re keeping an eye out, and you don’t grab one, the chances of getting stung are slim,” Potenza says. If you leave them alone, they’ll likely return the favor.

Pick the ripest only.

“Apples don’t ripen off the tree, like peaches and nectarines will,” Ross says. What you pick is what you get, in terms of ripeness. For this reason you’ll want to pay attention to signage on the farm. “We’ll only open what is ripe,” Ross says. If an area isn’t open for picking, it’s because the farmers have deemed its fruit unready for consumption. Additionally, don’t pick anything that you have to fight the tree to get. An apple should come off easily, without yanking or force.

Check out other activities on the farm.

Many farms offer special activities for families, from petting zoos and bouncy houses to corn mazes and live music. Additionally there are often harvest festivals with entertainment and homemade foods, so you might want to plan your visit around one of the special events. Hurds Family Farm has hayrides, a train ride that looks like a cow, bouncy pillows, an apple launcher, a wild apple obstacle course, gem mining, a playground, and more. Fishkill Farms offers live music, wagon rides, a hard cider garden, a hay jump, and corn hole games, among other things. When visiting Alstede Farms, you can enjoy watching cider being made, taking harvest moon hayrides, listening to live music, petting farm animals, sampling homemade ice cream, climbing on hay bales, and navigating a corn maze.

Stay hydrated!

“The most common thing that’s overlooked is the importance of properly hydrating when you’re going to go out and spend a couple hours on the farm,” Alstede says. Even though the weather is cooling down, be prepared to sweat while outside. Bring a big bottle of water and enough liquids for your family. Though most farms have beverages for sale, it’s best to keep some water on you just in case. If you’re out in the fields when thirst strikes, you’ll want to be able to quench it then and there, without having to head to the store. Nobody wants to deal with dehydration while spending a day with the family.


Photo Courtesy Sarah Potenza of Hurds Family Farm.

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