Virginia Apple Orchard Tour

I visited a few Virginia orchards last week with the hope of learning more about apple production and marketing. Unfortunately, it rained hard just about every day which limited by my travels. Most orchards were at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley off Interstate 81, but two orchards were on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains off Route 29, outside Charlottesville, Va. Both of these are well known apple growing regions since the colonial period.

Showalters Orchard - Timberville, VA. - 40 acre family run orchard/cider mill with nice timber frame cider tasting room. Combination of older trees and newer dwarf trees intercropped with pumpkins. Too wet for PYO, but I bought ½ bushel of apples and gallon of cider for $20! Best prices of any place I visited. RD, GD, Winesap, York, Johnagold, Lowery and a few others. Hard cider was good, but contained a lot of carbonation. Lady running the register was one of the owners and was very knowledgeable and helpful. Adjacent to Showalters Orchard was a large commercial orchard owned by Turkey Knob.

Turkey Knob is one of the largest apple growers in the US with over 3000 acres in production and a lot of new high density plantings. Orchard next to Showalters estimated to be 200-300 acres – Lots of new trees on a single wire trellis with unknown rootstocks. Many NO TRESSPASSING signs so I could not explore the orchard. The Turkey Knob grading and packing facility is just around the corner but their retail stand was closed. Orchard is now owned by Andros NA , with a huge processing/storage plant just off of I-81 in Mount Jackson, VA. Also drove by the largest orchard I have even seen a few miles down the road in Quicksburg also owned by Turkey Knob. This orchard had apple trees on both sides of the road as far as you could see. Probably 500 acres or more. Mostly new dwarf trees on close spacing with identification signs. Orchard was well kept and absolutely beautiful. Gala were about 3X14 on 4 wire trellis with no conduit and no drip. Adjacent to the road was large pole barn with what looked like several thousand new plastic bulk bins. Big money and very experienced growers at work here!

Paughs Orchard - Quicksburg, VA – small family owned orchard about 15-20 acres, but they were closed on Saturday when I arrived.

Marker- Miller Orchard - Winchester, VA - Large family owned orchard of about 350 acres. Very nice PYO set up which I could not check out because of the rain. Huge, well organized farm market, included a bakery. No cider mill, but they resold cider from another local orchard. About a dozen varieties of very nice apples. Similar variety to what I had seen earlier plus Mitsu, Nittany and a few others. Apples were $1.69/pound or $25 for ½ bushel as I recall
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Carter Mountain Orchard – Charlottesville, VA. Huge, mountain top apple and grape orchard. Dramatic view in all directions. Lots of older trees spaced 6 feet apart and tied to individual posts which were 12-15 feet tall. Also lots of trees about 15 feet apart and 15 feet tall. One large block of newly planted dwarf trees on 4 wire trellis. Orchard was VERY steep. I was amazed they managed to get a sprayer on the steep hillside to spray the trees. Soil was red clay which is common in the Piedmont area of Virginia. Very many varieties of apples available PYO or pre-picked, including September Wonder (early Fuji) and Candy Crisp. I ate several Candy Crisp and was not impressed. Newer variety for sale at $1.79/pound or $30 or ½ bushel. Also had a wine and cider tasting rooms but time was short and I did not have a chance to check them out. Parking for about 500 cars. This is a big tourist destination close to T. Jefferson’s plantation at Monticello.

Vintage Virginia Apples/Albemarle Cider - North Garden, Va – About 15 minutes from Carter Mountain off route 29. Nice Cider tasting room. Cider was highly carbonated and reminded me of Champaign. Ciders made from Albemarle Pippin, Hewes Crab, Winesap, Goldrush and more. Orchard also sells many variety of heritage apple tree and conducts seminars on apple orchard production, grafting and cider production. People are very helpful and knowledgeable.

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Good info but pricey apples!

Absolutely the best kind to grow :grinning:

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I feel a lot better about my 1 acre apple orchard after the tour. Apples were selling like crazy for grocery store prices and an acre produces a huge amount of apples.

Every year, we pick up apples from local orchard for $10 or $12 per half bushel bag(around 40lbs) and I only pick Fuji as it stores very well and tastes great. This is also the reason that I don’t want to grow my own apples.

I used to be the same way, but as time goes on you may start craving varieties they don’t grow. Fuji can become dull when your palate is introduced to all the possibilities of what can be grown at highest quality in your own orchard.

My apples are so much better than anything I can buy anywhere. They are my custom selection.

Sorry Alan, you’re wrong. Mine are the finest!
James, unless you grow your own, you’ll not be able to say this…and be as right as I am. No apple is crunchier, no egg has more savor, no honey is sweeter than by your own hand. If at all possible my friend, have the pleasure of growing your own :smile:

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Then, Alan and chikn, I need some advices on which cultivar to grow at western New York.

I would love to see the orchards in Virginia. Virginia seems to have retained their apple growing heritage unlike here in midwest. Luckily, the climate here is similar and I can import heirloom varieties that do well there.

I visited Virginia Vintage Apples with my wife last Thursday. We did the cider tasting as well. It was all a bit sweet for me but we did buy one bottle as well as a half bushel of Virginia Gold and Idared mixed. I spent about a half hour chatting with one of the workers about apples. Learned a bit. I plan to go back for the next grafting workshop in Feb or March.

Take a look at Kidd’s Orange Red or Karmijn de Sonnaville. Neither will be as sweet as Fuji but will have a better range of flavors. Baldwin might also be a choice. It was very popular until the late 40’s. I love the flavor, it cooks well, great cider apple, it won’t be as sweet as fuji.

Sounds like a great tour, thanks for sharing. I very much enjoy visiting orchards, sampling varieties, and getting to see different growing styles. From deep-pocketed posh operations to mom and pop…I like the latter, and there’s quite a few around Maine worth the trip.

But I can’t buy yours.

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Forestandfarm

Vintage Virginia Apples is unique because of their knowledge of heritage trees and apples as well as cider. About half dozen family members run the place and they are the most helpful folks I have seen. When I took the grafting seminar it was taught Tom Burford. Bench grafting only - no discussion or demonstrations on alternatives. Some of the apples they use come from Turkey Knob Orchard.

You may be interested in the Century Farm Orchard open house each Saturday in November. Last year they had
samples of about 20 apples available for tasting. They normally have lot of variety of antique apples for sale, with lots of flyspeck and sooty blotch apples, but good flavor.

I’m interested in locating other orchards or nursery in NC/Virginia area with knowledgeable and helpful folks, that I could visit. Any suggestions?

I believe they said the Heritage festival this year is November 7th. This is the first orchard I’ve visited in VA. I used to live very close to an orchard in central PA. I believe it was called Horner.

Blue,

You gotta come up the road a little further into Frederick County, Maryland. We have incredible orchards here. Here are my faves (all of these places have websites except one noted below).

Distillery Lane Ciderworks, Jefferson, Md (near Burkittsville). Incredible selection of antique apples, sweet and hard dry ciders, and orchard tours. Owner is friendly and knowledgeable. Biggest drawback-- only open on weekends from 12- 5pm, and not really worth a visit unless you can come in October. This weekend is their big shebang: tastings, cider pressings; beekeeping demos, and possibly some BBQ and other gourmet food trucks.

Catoctin Mountain Orchard, Thurmont, Md. Best fruit market in the region. Huge orchard. Better hours: Open 9am- 5pm daily through November. Most everything sold there they grow themselves. Right now they have Honeycrisp, Blondee, & Jonathon apples, late-season peaches, Magness & Seckel pears, fresh-baked pies & cider doughnuts, local honey & maple syrup, and the best sweet cider around.

Honorable mentions:

Scenic View Orchard, Sabillasville, Md

Pryor’s Orchard, Thurmont, Md (in August, they have some great peaches)

… And don’t forget Southcentral Pennsylvania. A few more favorites:

Boyer’s Nursery, Biglerville, PA (fabulous nursery, orchard, & market)

White Oak Nursery, Strasburg, PA (ditto, but they are anabaptists, so no website. phone 717-687-8884)

Absolutely my point! Make yours the finest because you did it yourself. Don’t rely on ‘they did it’ or any other excuse. That’s the total point of this whole forum. Learn how and do it yourself, it will never be better. “Adapt, innovate, overcome”,Clint Eastwood, Heartbreak Ridge. I feel like a DI or a cheerleader now, I’m off the soapbox.

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