Nothing welcomes the crisp fall weather like the smell of a baking apple pie. There’s something satisfying about the process of eating a slice of the pie you made from scratch, but there’s nothing like eating a pie made from apples you picked on your own.
Northern Virginia is known for its agrotourism destinations, with vineyard tours, pick-your-own vegetable farms, and sunflower mazes. There are also a few apple orchards that are more than worth the trip to a Northern Virginia farm.
There are numerous orchards and pick-your-own farms located throughout the Northern Virginia region, but I’ve selected three that stand out in terms of experiences for fall. No matter the variety of apples you’re looking for, these three farms have seasonal varieties fresh from the field for your pies, tarts, and weekend cider-making.
Great Country Farms
Picking Season: Late August through September 30.
Cost: Admission fee; price per pound depends on the type of apple.
Great Country Farms’ orchard opens for the apple-picking season in late August when Honeycrisp apples start to ripen. In September, Gala, Jona Gold, Jona Free, Candy Crisp, Ruby Jon, and Fuji varieties, which are perfect for pies, are available to pick. The farm also presses apple juice and sells homemade apple cider to visitors.
Admission includes encounters with livestock like sheep, pigs, chickens, and ducks as well as a 12-acre play area with a splash pad and irrigation area. This orchard is the place to bring your little ones on those last days of late summer or warm fall days. The kids will love to take advantage of the obstacle course to get their energy out. There’s a wagon ride to the orchard where the picking takes place, and the farm recommends using the quart containers they provide to hold your apples.
The farm also offers educational tours throughout the season on the weekdays designed for home school students or school classes that can travel. The tour includes a wagon ride to the orchard, pick-your-own-apples, apple education and composting stations, and an apple pressing demonstration.
Valley View Farm
Picking Season: September and October; Saturday: noon to 6 p.m.; Sunday: noon to 5 p.m.
Cost: Pay for what you pick
Throughout the year, Valley View Farm offers pick-your-own fruit in several different orchards. In September and October, they offer a variety of apples that you can pay for as you pick. The farm provides bags (using your own is not permitted), and turns you loose on the farm to gather a locavore’s harvest.
In addition to pick-your-own orchards, the farm offers a range of hard ciders for drinking, a “locavore farm market” where locally-made artisanal foods are sold, and an adopt-a-hive program in support of their initiative to bring the honey bee population back up in Fauquier County.
Throughout the season, they offer educational tours of their property where they discuss local farming, animal husbandry, orchard management, beverage production, and the “Honey Bee Initiative”, a comprehensive research effort led by George Mason University to stabilize the honey bee population in North America. The farm, which has been in the Strother family for five generations, is only an hour from Washington D.C., and is the perfect place to bring a group to escape the city for a fun and educational weekend.
Visitors pay for what they pick from the orchard, and the orchard closes an hour before the rest of the farm. Cars are not allowed in the orchard, so bring walking shoes that can get muddy if it has recently rained. While outside alcohol is not permitted, they do sell hard cider, wine, and mead at the Locavore Farm Market Taproom. Bring your dog if you plan to stay outside of farm buildings for the day. Visitors are encouraged to pick only what they intend to eat to prevent waste and keep prices accessible.
Picking Season: Late August through late October.
Cost: Pay for what you pick
If you’re looking for variety, Hollin Farm has what you need. With red, green, and yellow apples ranging from Honeycrisp to Wolf River to Golden Delicious, you’ll be treated to an array of pick-your-own fruit in fall colors. The apples offered in this orchard are good for cooking, making cider, poaching, and snacking. With 27 varieties, there’s bound to be something for even the pickiest apple connoisseur.
The farm, established in 1950, is a thriving agricultural operation that is committed to sustainability and land stewardship. Aside from apples, depending on the season, they offer pick-your-own cherries and peaches, among other fruits and veggies.
Before coming out to pick your own fruit at Hollin Farm, check the website for daily updates about conditions on the farm, opening and closing times, and seasonal events. Wear sturdy hiking boots or closed-toe sneakers in case of mud or rough terrain and consider wearing a sunhat and an extra layer of clothes in cooler weather that you can remove and carry with you if the day gets hot. Unlike other farms with food and drink, Hollin Farm does not offer refreshments, so make sure to bring your own in a cooler or plan a meal before you arrive. If you have a canine friend, you can bring them if they remain on a leash. Happy picking!