Here in the Northeast, it’s fall harvest time! Those of us in the city are itching to breathe some of that crisp country air and reap the bounty of the season. Get ready to choose a weekend, round up your friends or family members, find a car (sometimes the hardest part of an escape from New York City), and go pick some apples or pumpkins. Here’s your guide to doing it sustainably, so your delicious, non-urban experience is all the more pure.
If you’re concerned about the chemicals used to grow apples, you should be. It’s not all that easy to grow fruit in the Northeast, so most farms use pesticides, herbicides and other substances. Even the most eco-friendly farms must use some chemicals for their apples to survive the climate; this means that, rather than looking for strictly organic operations, you’ll usually be looking for “low-spray” and “sustainably grown” alternatives.
A 90-minute drive north, near Fishkill, NY, you’ll find Fishkill Farms. Its pick-your-own apple orchard is home to low-spray varieties, and has been certified by the Eco Apple program. Fishkill Farms is so gung-ho about sustainability that it has gone all out to meet organic standards; its official organic certification is on the way.
About two hours from the city, Mr. Apples in High Falls, NY, offers minimally sprayed apples, with no herbicides used in the soil. This orchard offers fun features like a mystery apple variety (that sprung up all on its own) and historic educational displays. The pick-your-own bounty also includes pears and pumpkins.
Nearby, in Stone Ridge, NY, the Stone Ridge Orchard has also been certified by Eco Apple. Besides picking your own apples, you can stop by the farm stand for pumpkins, melons, cider, baked goods and more.
For something a little different, look into leasing a tree from Little Dog Orchard in Clintondale, NY (less than two hours from Manhattan). The orchard recently decided to forgo all pesticides, herbicides and fungicides—so the surface of the apples might not look pretty, but you’ll know you’re not ingesting anything you don’t want to. With the lease-a-tree program, you invest in a specific tree and choose a time to go harvest the bushels of fruit.
Pumpkins aren’t as much of a health concern as apples since the skin is so thick and you don’t eat it anyway. But if you care about the environmental impact of what you buy, you’ll want to go for organically grown pumpkins this Halloween.
One place to pick them yourself is Organics Today, an organic farm in East Islip on Long Island—about an hour’s drive from Manhattan. Besides the pumpkin patch, you can enjoy seasonal delights like hay rides, apple cider, cider doughnuts and pumpkin pie, every day until Halloween.
Mr. Apples (mentioned above) also offers pick-your-own pumpkins and other kid-friendly activities.
So hurry up and get out of here, before the pickings get too slim!
Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.