A Day at the Orchard
After being rained out last year, our school has been buzzing with the anticipation of our yearly trip to the apple orchards at Meadowbrook Farm. Yesterday was finally the big day, and we gathered on our front porch in the honeyed sun of mid-morning, and then formed a caravan of parent-driven cars parading our way down Middlebush Road to the orchard. We were greeted out front by “Farmer Dan,” whose family has been running Meadowbrook for three generations and over 70 years.
After a brief visit with the farm’s animals, including the largest turkey I have ever seen, we were sent off into the rows of apple trees, hunting for the perfect Empires, Macs, and Delicious(es?), Fujis, Granny Smiths, and Macouns. Farmer Dan was particularly excited about the late-blooming Royal Empires near the back of the orchard that were bright red, huge, and hanging low on drooping limbs waiting for young hands to delicately pluck them. Here in my office, I have had a chance to look into these apples a bit, and was excited to find that the Empire Apple is a cross between the McIntosh and Delicious that was originally developed starting in 1945 using seeds from a single orchard right here in the Hudson Valley, and was introduced to the public in 1966. It is truly a home-grown apple!
We ask our students to flex their decision making abilities, judgment, and independence at the orchard by insisting on only one rule: You must carry your own apple bag!!! You could see the young minds churning as they tried to figure out just how many apples they were going to be able to haul around as they wound their way down the rows of trees. The youngest could be seen dragging bags of 4-5 apples behind them, tilted forward against their load like weathermen leaning into gale force winds. Most of them found that extra apples could be carried with great ease inside their tummies, and we all sat for a bit by the bridge over a small pond to quietly chomp away at our bounty.
It was a beautiful day at the orchard. The sun, which had nurtured the apples all summer long, now seemed to both energize and relax our merry group of pickers. We finished with some fresh cider and delicious cider donuts and then wound our way back down Middlebush Road and onto the front porch of the school, grins on our faces and our bags filled with sweet red and green globes swinging by our sides.