Cold Spring Orchard Farm Stand Prospers During Challenging Year
Despite the challenges of a very late spring frost, the orchards, farm stand, and wholesale sales at Cold Spring Orchard Research and Education Center in Belchertown have had a good season. That’s in stark contrast to many orchards across the northeast. New York and Michigan lost most of their apple crops this year, and there is an apple shortage in the northeast. Cold Spring’s farm stand is busier than usual this year because other farm stands aren’t open. Also, wholesale sales are up. All revenues from Cold Spring’s wholesale and farm stand sales go back into the facility, supporting Cold Spring’s research and education programs. Strong wholesale and farm stand sales this season means support for those programs is intact.
Shawn McIntire, Cold Spring Farm Superintendent, said, “We lost about 40% of our McIntosh crop. Our pears and peaches were not as hurt by the frost because they were at a different stage of development than the apples. Being on a hillside helped, as did having over 100 different varieties of fruit with different bloom times.”
Tom Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association, said, “Overall, Massachusetts lost about 25% of its apple crop with the late frost. Losses varied across the state depending on the timing of the bloom and the location of the orchard. Some orchards lost almost all of their apple crop for this year. Orchards on hillsides like Cold Spring had less damage than those in lower areas. Luckily, the frost damage was limited to the buds and the trees are intact.”
Cold Spring’s farm stand sells about $80,000 of fruit, cider, honey, and other products each year. Cold Spring’s sales to wholesale accounts bring in about $150,000 a year. Peaches are always popular in season and both traditional and specialty apples sell well at Cold Spring. Popular apple varieties include Macoun, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh. Along with better-known varieties, Cold Spring also sells a number of less common apple varieties, including Shamrock, the east coast’s version of Granny Smith. Bosc and Bartlett pears are also a favorite of customers at Cold Spring’s farm stand.
Cold Spring sells fruit wholesale to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and small grocery stores in the area as well as to Whole Foods and Maple Farm in Hadley, MA. During Apple Week this fall, the University of Massachusetts Dining Commons served Cold Spring apples.
Many University of Massachusetts undergraduates work at Cold Spring doing pruning, picking, and other orchard tasks. Along with providing hands-on experience for UMass students, Cold Spring has a special relationship with fruit growers throughout Massachusetts. Cold Spring’s 215 acres were once the Hanafin/Bay State Dairy Farm. In 1962, after UMass removed its research orchard to build Orchard Hill dormitories, the Massachusetts Fruit Growers’ Association purchased the Hanafin Farm and donated it to the University. The MFGA provides input to Cold Spring about what research and educational programs would benefit fruit growers in the state.
Shawn started working at Cold Spring 17 years ago and has been orchard manager for two years. Changes Shawn has seen over the years include an increase in wholesale sales from $30,000 to the current $150,000 a year. Also, Shawn said, “The ‘buy locally grown’ movement has really increased interest in Massachusetts fruit in general and in Cold Spring. Cold Spring Orchard is very diversified in terms of what is grown there. For commercial sales, orchards have to be diversified to survive.”
For information about Cold Spring and its farm stand, visit http://coldspringorchard.com/
Photography: Jim Gipe/Pivot Media