When Fall arrives in the valley, families go apple picking, buy pumpkins, search for their favorite harvest season vegetables, take hay rides, listen to music and above all, stock up on the hottest seller, apple cider donuts.
Dave DuBois, of DuBois Farms in Highland, has been hosting Pick-Your-Own for the public for the past 13 years. He also has a petting zoo with goats, cows and llamas for the kids and for the adults he constructed an old-fashioned Tavern that has proven to be very popular.
“Apple cider donuts go faster than apples. We never run out and we’re keeping up with the people,” he said. “We don’t start making them until the people start showing up and we can make up to 200 dozen an hour. There are 14 people making donuts upstairs in the yellow barn.”
DuBois ticked off some of his more unusual and favorite apples; Ashmead’s Kernel, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Snap Dragon.
In recent years DuBois has been planting ‘dwarf’ apple trees.
“Instead of planting a tree every 18 feet and waiting 8 years for them to close in the space, we’re planting them 3 feet apart and they will get about 8 feet tall.” He said he can plant 1,000 trees per acre, which is twice as many as the older method, and he will be picking a full crop in five years.
DuBois said he and his wife are always thinking three or four years ahead on what they would like to add to the farm, be it a certain apple or vegetable or some additional activities for the kids. He said when they purchased the property it was just an abandoned orchard without even a barn. They built other structures, including their home, revitalized the fruit crop and transformed the land into a viable farm operation. As a result, people continue to turn out in droves at their farm.
“When you get a day like today and riding around and you see these people all smiling and having a good time; everything’s wonderful and there’s no problems,” he said.
Musician James Patrick Cunningham performs often at the DuBois Farm during the fall season.
“It’s all great, they have pumpkin picking, the corn maze and a petting zoo for the kids,” he said. “They have great food and a good environment that is nice and clean.”
Rick Lawrence, of Lawrence Farms Orchards, said they have run a pick-your-own operation since the early 1970s. He said his great grandfather, Frank Lawrence, emigrated from Manchester, England in 1892 and bought acreage nearby that was farmed for 80 years before his family purchased their present 150 acre farm in 1969. It sits in Orange County, close to the Ulster County line. Presently, the farm offers about 35 varieties of apples, along with grapes, pears, peaches, plumbs, cherries and apricots as well as about 20 types of vegetables.
“That’s what brings people back, is the variety of stuff that we grow,” he said, adding that the view from the farm “is excellent, it never gets old.” He said to the south he can see as far as High Point State Park in New Jersey, the Taconic range to the east and Mohonk to the west.
“We start in June with strawberries and we do lettuce, peas and spinach. Right after strawberries we do sweet cherries, sour cherries and after that we get into apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines and pears and apples and some early grapes hit about the third week in August. There are, of course, all the vegetables in-between,” he said.
Lawrence grew some hemp this year for its CBD oil on some of his open land as part of a co-operative effort guided by Amy and Gail Hepworth. He will see how that works out over the next few years.
“It’s an expensive crop to grow, a very finicky crop to grow,” he said, adding that it costs him about $20,000 per acre to grow. “We’re growing it organically, there’s no chemicals and no herbicides so our quality is superior.”
Lawrence recalled building one small house for his own kids to play in but over the years it has blossomed into a ‘Little Village,’ with a church, post office, a cottage and other structures.
“It’s been a big, big hit,” he said.