It’s Honeycrisp season . . . And here in Williamstown, we are fortunate to have one of the finest apple growers located less than 40 miles away.
Apex Orchards, a seventh-generation family farm located in the beautiful hilltown of Shelburne, Mass., grows many apple varieties, as well as peaches, nectarines, pears (European and Asian varieties), plums, quince, kiwis, and table grapes. They also grow special apple varieties used for making hard cider.
Situated at the highest point of a 380-acre farm (hence, the name Apex), the orchards offer panoramic views of the surrounding Pioneer Valley, in addition to near-perfect growing conditions. “Good soil that’s high in minerals, good drainage, and a climate that’s not too hot, combine to make this spot uniquely suited to growing apples,” says Apex owner Tim Smith. “In addition to providing drainage, the hillside location is more resistant to spring frosts than lower elevations.” Thirty of the 380 acres are used for fruit growing. The remainder of the property is field and woodland.
According to Tim, who has been a fruit grower for 35 years, the 2015 apple season looks like a good one. At the time this article was written (end of August 2015), the fruit was sizing and coloring up well. “No other area in the country has the climate to grow apples that taste as good as the apples we grow here in the Northeast,” says Tim. “In the fall, our warm days and cool nights help the apples ripen well with high color and a full flavor that you just can’t get from apples grown in warmer regions of the country.”
Apex typically picks between 12,000 and 15,000 bushels of apples in a season. This year, Tim estimates that the number will be in the 15,000 range. By late September/early October, he expects to have several apple varieties available, including Honeycrisp, Macoun, McIntosh, Empire, and early Fuji apples.
In addition to Wild Oats, Tim sells his fruit and other products to several local and regional co-ops, including River Valley in Northampton, Mass. and Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH. He sells his honey (sold under the label “Shelburne Honey Co.”) to Green Fields Market in Greenfield, Mass. and is a welcome regular at Northampton’s Tuesday farmers’ market. Apex also has its own farm store, and is building a new, larger store scheduled to open in spring 2016. The new store will offer a beautiful view of the valley, in addition to more room for Apex fruits, honey, blueberries, and other farm fresh goods.
A Family Farm That Has Flourished
Apex Orchards has been through many changes since Tim’s ancestors first settled it in 1828. It started out as a diversified farm and self-sufficient homestead that raised livestock for meat and dairy, vegetables, and fruit; became a dairy operation; and in 1946 became a fruit growing operation. About 15 years ago, Tim and his family decided to move away from exclusively growing and selling apples wholesale, to growing a greater variety of fruits for the retail market. Their decision coincided with the beginning of the local food movement; and Apex, with its high quality fruit and longtime roots in the community, quickly developed a large and loyal customer base. “Western Massachusetts is unique in its focus and support of local produce,” says Tim. “We’re fortunate to live and farm in an area that places such high value on its farmland and on local produce.”
As the owner of an almost 200-year-old family farm, Tim is a responsible and active advocate for the farmland that has been in his family for decades. As he says, land stewardship is “part of the equation.” A few years ago, he and his family purchased 175 acres adjacent to Apex, which had been part of the original family farm. Apex Orchards is a member of the Agricultural Preservation Restoration Program (APR), which means that all the land on the farm is protected in perpetuity.
Apex Products You’ll Find at Wild Oats Market
In the summer, you will find Apex peaches, nectarines and plums at Wild Oats. Once apple season is here, you will find a changing assortment of Apex apple varieties to choose from, including their outstanding Honeycrisp. Wild Oats also carries the farm’s Shelburne Honey Co. products year-round.
Visit this link for a few of Apex Orchard’s favorite fruit recipes. And don’t forget to visit Wild Oats Market to see what we have currently in stock from this spectacular local orchard.