Jams and Jellies and Fruit, Oh My!
Kristen Hanley has always loved to preserve fresh food. She now parlays that love into delicious ways to extend the season for the fruits of UMass Amherst’s Cold Spring Orchard Horticultural Research Center in Belchertown, Mass., about 15 miles from the Amherst campus. If you visit the orchard, you can buy one of the 1,500 jars of mouth-watering jams and jellies that she has made this season; beware though, wait too long and they will be sold out, they always are.
Buying fresh fruit or fruit products at Cold Spring Orchard will accomplish more than pleasing your palate. Doing so will help support university research important to thriving orchards, healthful fruit and a healthy environment.
All preserves are made with fruit grown in the orchard and can be purchased in the store located at 391 Sabin Street in Belchertown. Flavors include: Apricot Jam, Blueberry Apricot Jam, Blueberry Peach Jam, Nectarine Jam, Peach Jam, Peach Ginger Jam, Plum Ginger Jam, Peach Habanero Jam, Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Apricot Jam, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Sour Cherry Jelly and Red Currant Jelly. The orchard also offers a pick-your-own operation seven days a week from 10:00-4:00 until Thanksgiving. If you are not interested in communing that closely with nature, there are many varieties of apples for sale in their store.
Most visitors to Cold Spring are local but there are some for whom this is a “must stop” on their way south to Florida for the winter as they stockpile New England’s finest fruits. Parents of UMass students also visit frequently as part of their trip to campus.
History of site
Located at the site of the spring that gave Belchertown its original name – Cold Spring – the orchard is on property that was once the Hanifin Farm/Bay State Dairy Farm. When the University of Massachusetts looked to an older research orchard on the Amherst campus as a site for new dormitories in the early 1960s, the state’s fruit growers began looking for a new site for this research. In December 1961, the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association, Inc. completed the purchase of the 215-acre Hanifin Farm and donated it to the University the following year.
Research and Education: Buy Fruit, Help Research
Profits from fruit sales at UMass Cold Spring Orchard, along with public funding, contributions from commercial orchardists, and grants from the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association are used to manage the research and education facility in Belchertown.
The Cold Spring Orchard Horticultural Research Center conducts tree and small fruit research. It is the premier pomology (apple growing) facility in New England. Scientists at UMass study ways to grow more tree fruit in less space, compare the ability of varieties of fruit to resist disease and insects, and search for ways to reduce the amount of chemicals used in growing fruit.
If you walk around the orchard, you may notice that some of the apple trees are larger and are spaced farther apart while others are smaller and closer together. The smaller trees represent the high-efficiency method of growing tree fruit like apples, peaches, and pears. Their fruit can be harvested more easily and more of these trees can be planted on less land.
The orchard is also a good place to experiment with non-chemical methods of controlling pests. One experiment has eliminated the need to spray insecticides to control the apple maggot fly which lays its eggs in the fruit: red, sticky, sweet-smelling spheres resembling apples are very successful in capturing these flies when hung in the trees. Other research has studied orchard spiders and their eating habits, looking for ways to encourage these natural predators of insect pests. As a result, care is now taken not to use sprays that might harm the spiders.
All Photographs (except apples in store) by Andy Slocombe