Only seven minutes away from the Vassar-favorite Dubois Farms sits another pick-your-own orchard: Prospect Hill Orchards. Run by a local family, the Clarkes, Prospect Hill Orchards has three locations: Hilltop Farm, Homestead Farm and Clarke Family Farms, the first two in Milton, NY, and the latter in Modena, NY. This scenic farmland is only a 20-minute drive from Vassar’s main campus. The farm produces a variety of different fruits that customers can pick including cherries in mid-June; peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots from July to August; and apples and pears from September to October. According to their website, Prospect Hill Orchards began operating as a pick-your-own farm in 1982, but the land has been owned by the family for over 200 years.
When you arrive at the farm, you are greeted by Clarke family members and a variety of baked goods. They have everything from apple cider donuts and homemade jams to crunchy, sweet granola, available to buy before or after your pick-your-own adventure. With a warm smile, a staff member explains how the pick-your-own process works, as they sell their fruit by the bag or box, not by the weight. For apples, you can get half a bushel for $35, a reasonable price for the number of apples you get. Split among four friends, the cost is $8.75 per person, and, if done right, each person can take home 10-20 apples from the bag.
The staff members are very kind and excited to welcome visitors to their farm. When I went to the Hilltop location with a few friends in mid-September, we arrived very late in the day, with only an hour until closing, but the staff kept the farm open 20 minutes late just so we could have a good time. Realizing we arrived so late in the day, we apologized immensely for taking up their time, to which one of the women said “It’s no worries at all; we’re just so glad you decided to come visit us today. Usually, people come and realize this isn’t the orchard they wanted to go to, and we point them down the road to the other one, so we’re just really happy you’re here.” One of the staff members drove us up the hilltop on a big tractor-pulled wagon, eager to help us find what we were looking for or to give us a ride to another part of the orchard. When we finished picking our apples, we came back down the hilltop, and even though they had begun packing up the baked goods for the day, the staff offered to bring items back out for us if we wanted to see them.
In addition to the pick-your-own aspect of the farm, Prospect Hill Orchards also hosts various events. The day that my friends and I went to the orchard, there was a cider-pressing demonstration. The farm also has kids’ days, a Johnny Appleseed Cider Fest and will be hosting a Full Moon Dinner this October, featuring an eight-course menu.
The atmosphere in the fall provokes the nostalgia of apple picking as a kid, and the view at the Hilltop Farm is hard to beat. Prospect Hill Orchards is not the orchard that people usually go to or know about, but it’s friendly, warm environment is something that you cannot beat. Being a family-run farm, the staff is welcoming and eager to help out and answer any questions you may have. I highly recommend going to Prospect Hill Orchards at least once before you graduate. Be sure to swing by when you get the chance, because Prospect Hill Orchards is a hidden gem of delicious goodies and kind hearted people.