Apple picking is sort of made for the pandemic.

It’s an activity you do in the great outdoors, with plenty of fresh air. There are more than enough trees, usually, and there’s no need for everyone to crowd around the same one.

Sure, there are some fun things about apple picking that might not be suitable for social distancing. Some Maine orchards that usually have a lot of kids’ activities, like bouncy houses, are cancelling those this year. The selling of pies, cider or donuts will take place outside at many orchards, not inside an orchard’s store or barn. Several orchards say they’ll charge people by the container instead of by the pound this year, to avoid long lines at cash registers.

Happy apple pickers at Apple Acres Farm in Hiram. Photo courtesy of Apple Acres Farm

Maine’s pick-your-own apple orchards are open for business this fall, many kicking into gear this weekend. Orchard owners from around the state held a meeting this summer to figure out how to open safely, and discuss things like the state’s limit on outdoor gatherings – 100 people – as well as reducing contact and the state’s requirement that masks be worn when social distancing can’t be practiced. Most are discouraging people from eating the apples while they pick.

To find an orchard near you, including what they are offering and their COVID-19 rules, check out the website of the Maine Pomological Society at maineapples.org. The site lists some 60 orchards all over the state and lets you search by county.

Below are a few examples of southern Maine orchards, and what they’re offering this year.

BE RESERVED

McDougal Orchards in Springvale is letting people make weekend picking reservations online, to avoid crowds. Reservations are accepted up to 14 days before, but if there’s space available, walk-ins are accepted, too. The orchard will not have wagon rides or a swing set this year. But it will be offering a lot of fruit to pick, including apples, raspberries, pears, plums and pumpkins. The farm store will be selling foods, baskets and pre-picked produce, and there will be hot apple cider donuts for sale starting Labor Day weekend. The orchard has some 40 varieties of apples to choose from, but don’t sample them while picking, orchard managers say, and make frequent use of hand washing stations around the property. For more information, go to mcdougalorchards.com.

McDougal Orchards in Springvale is offering apple-picking reservations. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

PICK YOUR VIEW

Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner is high on a hill with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. It’s also spread out in a way that makes social distancing easier, as the activity area where kids play is about a mile and a half from the actual apple trees. There’ll be no bouncy house this year and probably no wagon rides. But there will be goats and a corn maze. Of course, there’s apple and pumpkin picking with hand washing stations nearby, and staff will keep track of how many people are in certain areas of the orchard. Cider doughnuts will be sold from a window in the store, so no one has to come in. There will be entertainment on some weekends, including juggler Jason Tardy and animal handler Mr. Drew and his Animals Too. For information, including dates of specific entertainment, go to rickerhill.com.

ACRES OF APPLES

Apple Acres Farm in Hiram is in the foothills of the western mountains, and has certified organic apples for picking. All apples will be sold by the bag and not by weight, and wagons for toting apples will be sanitized. The farm’s restaurant will be serving stone-fired pizza, sandwiches, soups and salads, with outdoor seating and limited indoor seating in the Treehouse Room. If you want to pick apples and then shop while keeping your distance, you can. Every item the farm sells, from maple syrup to gifts and doughnuts, will be available for purchase on the website and for curbside pickup. So you can pick apples outdoors, pick up your fresh local goodies, and be on your way. The farm is also having musicians play live outdoors on select weekends. For more information, go to appleacresfarm.com.

Libby & Son U-Picks in Limerick will be selling doughnuts and smoothies in a variety of flavors. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

ROLLING HILLS

Doles Orchard in Limington sits on a gently rolling hill in a rural and scenic part of York County. This year, it expects to have some 30 varieties for picking, plus raspberries, too. Like most other orchards, they are selling by the bag, both to shorten lines and avoid contact. They’ll be selling baked goods – pumpkin whoopie pies are a favorite – and will have some food trucks on weekends. For more information, go to dolesorchard.com.

YOU PICK

At Libby & Son U-Picks in Limerick, there’s no doubt what business they are in. The 40-acre orchard had peaches earlier this year for picking, and as of last week had raspberries, blueberries and apples. The orchard will be making and selling homemade doughnuts in a variety of flavors: blueberry, strawberry, apple cider and red velvet. Fresh fruit smoothies and hot kettle corn will also be available. The farm has set up a check-in area and asks people to start there and follow the signs. Touchless payment is available with credit cards or Apple/Samsung Pay. Musicians will perform all day long on weekends, and some weekdays as well. For more information, go to libbysonupicks.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.