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Harvesting fruits and fun with You-Pick farms

heirloom apple

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

Autumn is right around the corner and with it cooler temperatures not to mention harvest season. Many are rediscovering the joys of harvesting their fall treats with the help of you-pick farms that bring the fun of the season to families and friends looking to get out and experience the old-time joy of gathering fruits to enjoy together. For some in Johnson County, apple-picking season is a time of traditions and remembrance. Such is especially the case for the Guy family of Mountain City. Bonnie Guy, along with her children Grace, Rosie, and Jaylyn look forward to this time each year.

“Every fall my dad, myself, and my kids go and pick apples to use for apple butter,” Bonnie said. “Together as a family, we make enough apple butter to use for the year and to give as Christmas gifts.”

In the Appalachian Mountains, fall brings the ripening of heirloom variety apples as well as pumpkins of all sizes for decoration and delicious recipes. Not only is there fun to be had at the farms but also in most cases, the drive to the farms offers great views of fall foliage and the chance to leave behind modern-day distractions.

The Internet offers a number of directories featuring nearby farms and what products they have available. The website has a searchable database you can use to find farms in any state. The farms listed on the site give an overview of what items or services they offer, growing methods, hours of operation, and directions to the farm, and contact information. A quick call to the farm is advised to ensure that the listing is still valid and that this year’s crop
allows for the fun farm festivities. Also available online are guides to help you know how to choose the best produce as well as recipes for baking, canning, and other tasty treats. Many of the fruits and vegetables harvested in the fall months are well suited for long-term storage or preservation. For example, apples can be used to produce jam, apple butter, cider, or dehydrated for easy snacking. The National Center for Home Food Preservation website at offers free food preservation guides for download. Other preservation guides and ideas are provided at local county extension offices.

One of the biggest benefits to harvesting your own produce from local farms is the opportunity to taste heirloom variety fruits that most grocery stores do not carry. Apples with names like Carter’s Blue, Crow Egg, Dixie Red Delight, and Virginia Beauty, promise a world of taste outside the rows of ordinary Red Delicious in the mega-mart as well as a link to the past when early settlers began propagating these hearty varieties. Pumpkin farms are another popular destination for those seeking autumn activities. Some nearby pumpkin farms offer hayrides, corn mazes, picnic areas, and fresh baked goods to enjoy while you visit. The site is a great way to find local fall festivities to enjoy on an area farm.

Whether your family wants to browse the branches of an apple orchard featuring heirloom apple varieties or search the field for the biggest pumpkin in the patch, you-pick farms are an excellent choice for family fun and lasting memories.

“My dad and I began our yearly apple butter tradition some 15 years ago after my mom passed,” Bonnie added. “It was a way to keep her with us one spoon of apple butter at a time.”