Family’s easygoing attitude and dedication keep customers coming back year after year
By Nicolas Davidoff
For New Englanders, fall evokes fond childhood memories of family apple-picking trips. Memories of carefully filling one bag after another in the crisp weather before indulging in the sweet craving of a cup of hot cider and freshly baked apple cider doughnuts.
The Bartlett family, which has owned Bartlett’s Apple Orchard in Richmond for four generations, keeps the family and regional tradition alive every fall.
“A combination of my great-grandparents [Arcade “A.J.” and Sophie Bartlett] and my grandparents [Francis and Betty] started the orchard in 1947,” said Trevor Bartlett, who works as the manager for the farm and its store. “My dad [Richard] and my uncle [Ronald] are the current partners, they own the business.”
While the first apples of the season usually are ready to be picked by the third week of August, the Bartlett family opens its orchard to the public from Labor Day to Columbus Day, Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During the busiest days, Bartlett’s Apple Orchard sells more than 200 bags of its juicy apples. Bartlett believes that a relaxed atmosphere and special attention to the customer’s needs set his family’s orchard apart from the rest.
During the few weeks of the year the orchard is open to the public, Bartlett, his family and four employees guide visitors through the rows of fruit-filled trees with the hope that the hungry families will find something they love.
“All the pick-your-own orchards do it kind of differently, so I wouldn’t say there is a standard that guarantees success,” he said. “A lot of people just want to go apple picking, and they don’t really know what they like and what they don’t like. Some orchards are very strict; they’ll say ‘You don’t pick or try or take anything off the tree unless you’re paying for it.’
“We know there is going to be some loss every now and then, but at the same time, we want to encourage people to find things that they like. So, our philosophy is ‘Go try it. If you like it, pick it. That’s pretty much it.”
That philosophy has kept customers like Kristin Macutkiewicz, who works as the chef for Samel’s Deli in Pittsfield, coming back time and time again.
“The great thing is that they encourage you to taste the apples,” Nacutkiewicz said. “I think that’s what sets them apart. We went on a family vacation to Maine once and when we went apple picking, they completely forbade you from trying anything.
“But since they carry so many varieties at these orchards, it’s important to find out about that and know what you’re putting in your bag. For example, their Cortland apples are the best for making apple pies.”
Their favorite thing, though, is making caramel-dipped apples.
“We cut the apples after we’ve filled our bags and dip them into the sauce. It’s the best,” she said.
The Bartlett family’s easygoing attitude and its dedication to its craft is what makes Macutkiewicz and her family repeat customers year after year.
“My grandchildren look forward to going each fall, and it’s been a tradition for us for over 10 years,” she said.
Bartlett feels that the farm and its produce are a reflection of his work and that of his family. He wants to help his customers understand and taste the difference — pointing them to different and lesser-known apple varieties.
“I feel like I’d lose a piece of myself if I weren’t working here,” he said. “I grew up here and this is basically my life. I think it’s really important for small farms to stay around. There’s not many of them anymore, but I think they’re an integral part of the community. I think you can generally get a higher-quality product from places like that.”
Macutkiewicz, a Richmond resident, appreciates how much the orchard focuses on giving back to the community to which it belongs.
“Bartlett’s does a lot in that community by supporting the school with apples and other projects,” she said. “They’re just really nice people and they take pride in their product.
“But I think that the most important thing is that they really want to teach kids where their food comes from and get them excited about it. My grandchildren love making the applesauce and the pies, so this allows them to see and experience how much work it takes to get it all the way to their plate.”
And there is plenty to learn about in the Bartletts’ pick-your-own orchards, where they grow 13 varieties of apples: Paula Red, Jona-Mac, McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Macoun, Empire, Mutsu, Liberty, Ida Red, Jona-Gold, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.
For the Bartletts and their fall visitors, apple picking is a time for traditions and learning, time to enjoy the beautiful countryside and the delicious produce that grows out of it, and most importantly, a time for family.
If you go…
Bartlett’s Apple Orchard
575 Swamp Road, Richmond, Mass.
Open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Labor Day through Columbus Day.
Farm store hours (open year-round)
Monday through Friday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturdays: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sundays: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What you’ll find: Bartlett’s apples, cider and produce, as well as fresh cider doughnuts, muffins, pies, turnovers, and other assorted bakery goods. Also available: jellies, jams, maple syrup, honey and candies.
Want apples, but live too far away to get here?
Don’t worry, during peak apple season Batlett’s opens its online store, allowing you to ship apples to your own home or to family and friends.
A tasty collaboration
Last fall, Wandering Star Brewery rolled out Arrowhead Apple Ale. It’s an ale, not a hard cider, made with gluten-free ingredients: malted sorghum, Bartlett’s Orchard apples (cider), yeast and hops. According to brewer/owner Chris Post, plans are in the works to make another round of this fall favorite. Keep an eye on the brewery’s Facebook page for the announcement that the seasonal flavor has arrived, then head down to the brewery at 11 Gifford St. in Pittsfield, Mass. before it disappears.
Nicolas Davidoff worked as a summer intern for the Berkshire Eagle in the features department. Originally from Mexico City, Nicolas is a junior at New York University studying journalism and history.