The entrance to Goold Orchards. (Photo by Mark Adam.)
Two apple orchards in the Capital-Saratoga Region have family roots as deep as those of the trees. For a combined 124 years, Goold Orchards in Castleton and Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville have offered apple-picking bounty to the Capital-Saratoga Region. Both farms are hoping for a bounce-back harvest in 2013, a year after freezing temperatures in the spring devastated their respective 2012 crops.
The oldest apple orchard in the Capital-Saratoga Region, Goold Orchards, began in 1910. James Goold, the founder, was a Cornell University alumnus with a degree in horticulture. Following his death in 1935, his son Bob quit school to manage the farm. Throughout the years, every family member has contributed to the orchard at one time or another. A third-generation owner of her family’s eponymous orchard, Sue Goold Miller and her husband, Ed, are now at the helm.
Goold Orchards’ 15,000 apple trees are comprised of 16 different varieties and spread across 100 acres. The best sellers include McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Gala and Honeycrisp. Mrs. Goold Miller notes that, on average, the orchard sells 55,000 bushels of apples each year; the extenuating weather circumstances in 2012 withered sales to only 720 bushels.
Despite last year’s losses, the 2013 harvest season is one worth celebrating. This month Goold Orchards hosted its 25th annual Apple Festival and Craft Show. The Apple Festival features activities such as apple picking, horse drawn wagon rides, wine tasting from seven different New York State wineries and roughly 100 craft vendors hocking a range of products, including jewelry, candy, maple syrup, textiles and woodcrafts. Ahead of the Festival, Mrs. Miller estimated that 20,000 people from the Capital-Saratoga Region, New York Metro, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and the Berkshires would converge on her orchard throughout the course of the two-day event.
In addition to these community events, Mrs. Goold Miller and her husband have continually diversified the orchard’s operations, adding a store where customers can purchase apples, a bakery and even a winery. Brookview Station Winery is named after a former train station that Mrs. Goold Miller’s grandparents used when traveling between Albany and Castleton. Founded in 2005, the first wine was, of course, apple wine. As the product developed, pear wines and apple/pear mixed wine were introduced. The brand now includes 12 different kinds of wine, including white, red, rose-red, dessert and cordial. The farm store has a bar in its tasting room where customers can sample six different wines for $6. This year will see Brookview Station Winery’s first crop of grapes, to be turned into a Frontenac wine.
Even with all of the diversifying, 80 percent of visitors to Goold Orchards are there to pick apples. After all, “It’s a fall tradition,” Mrs. Miller says.
Goold Orchards’ products can be found off-site, too. Hannaford supermarkets carry the apple cider year-round. The apple crisp and Brookview Station wine are served in local restaurants: sip the wine at Carolina House in Kinderhook, La Conca D’Oro in Catskill and Uncle Marty’s Adirondack Grill in Sand Lake, and round out your meal with the apple crisp served at Kozel’s Restaurant in Ghent, Mrs. Miller says.
About 40 miles north of Goold Orchards, Saratoga Apple takes a different approach to the business. Its owner, Nate Darrow, grew up on an apple orchard in Vermont and by 8 years old he was driving a tractor and picking up bushel boxes. The Darrow lineage in apple farming started with Jebediah Darrow and is so long that Nate cannot recall whether he is a fifth- or seventh-generation apple farmer.
The younger Mr. Darrow started Saratoga Apple in 1994 after spending eight years running a Granny Smith apple farm, called Granny Smith Associates, in South Carolina. He spent years working on his family’s farm at Green Mountain Orchards in Putney, Vermont, which is now run by his brothers.
He now owns Saratoga Apple with his wife and they live directly above the farm’s store. They direct-market their apples, rather than wholesale, by selling about 40 different varieties including McIntosh, Cortland, Fuji, Gala and Sun Crisp in their store and by attending local farmers markets daily. On Saturdays they visit Troy, Saratoga and Glens Falls and on Sundays they visit Cambridge, a new Spa City farmers market in Saratoga and Dorset, VT.
Saratoga Apple supplements their primary business with a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. They sell raspberries, cherries, plums, peaches, pears, asparagus, tomatoes, celery, beets, carrots, pumpkins, winter squash and planted 500 blueberry bushes this year. Additionally, to cater to Saratoga’s special four-legged customers in stables, Mr. Darrow sells “horse apples,” which is a half-bushel bag of utility apples, meaning they’re not the top quality apples sold to the public. “It works like a charm if you want (the horses) to really perk up. If you always have an apple in your pocket, they will be very attentive,” Mr. Darrow says, laughing.
Everything is grown on Saratoga Apple’s 200-acre farm, which is open to the public in September and October for picking. During the weekends, wagons tour groups around the orchards, and live music plays — country fiddlers on Saturdays and Robanic Carribean music on Sundays — to entertain visitors.
Much like Goold Orchards, Saratoga Apple is open year-round. Both companies utilize refrigerated warehouses and long-term controlled atmospheric storage so that their products will keep through the winter and following spring.
Speaking to New York States of Mind magazine in the summer months, both Mrs. Miller and Mr. Darrow shared that they were anxiously awaiting autumn, and for the public to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Speaking from experience, Mr. Darrow imparted, “[Apple picking] is one of the good, wholesome and economical things you can do in upstate New York.”