Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gould Hill Orchard

Gould Hill Apple Orchard, in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, is one of my all-time apple favorites. The selection of heirloom and other apples for sale around Columbus Day weekend is truly fabulous, including one variety that is exclusive to Gould Hill.

Besides the apples, Gould Hill presses its own cider and sells it unpasteurized, and offers sweeping panoramic views. There are no corn mazes or moon bounces or cider donuts, but there is an unusual small nature museum and guided nature trail.

The orchard also sells seedlings in the spring and, in the summer, peaches that a friend tells me are the best anywhere.

A 2001 profile of then-owner Rick Leadbeater includes this information:

Rick explains that the "cosmetically perfect, large, crisp, pretty (i.e., marketable) apple isn't 'natural,' and totally flies in the face of nature's design." Achieving an acceptable balance between pest and predator requires extensive monitoring and knowledge of nature's dynamic systems. "Our interest in environmentally responsible growing has produced unique problems and benefits," Rick explains. "Limited use of herbicides requires more labor intensive mowing to reduce competition for nutrients between trees and orchard floor species. That healthy ecosystem provides an ideal habitat for beneficial indigenous and introduced species that may consume other problems." Rick's careful approach to growing also attracts desirable employees. "There's a hidden resource of environmental activists who wish to live their convictions," he says, "and we've been able to tap that pool for pickers and pruners-one year I had four PhDs on my picking crew."

Unfortunately the orchard today is for sale, another family business that has run out of family able to run it. The owners are working with conservation groups to find some way to keep it as a working apple farm, or at least preserve the land.

Update: There's some good news on this front.

In the mean time this orchard is worth a detour or even a trip in high season. A helpful web page provides the usual information and also a useful guide to apples by name and harvest date.

I also now have an admirable backlog of apples to taste. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I've been going to Gould Hill for ages and thank Heaven it HAS been bought out and rescued. Just went yesterday for my annual ritual. I'm probably the only apple nerd who brings their own self-sticking labels to keep the varieties straight when I get home. It's a little more touristy now (they do sell cider donuts as well as ice cream) but at least they're still up and running. And they had Wolf Rivers, best baked-apple ever!
    Jane L.


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