You may have to take a few extra precautions this year but fall at Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole is in full swing with its usual harvest-time fun.
Family traditions are made and continued every autumn day at the orchard, accessible from Route 12 North (just look for the switchback dirt road up the hillside that leads straight to the action).
At the center of the apple-picking scene is the orchard’s farm stand, open daily (through late November) where visitors can purchase locally made seasonal products. Some of the most notable are the orchard’s own freshly-baked apple and blueberry pies, unpasteurized apple cider and maple syrup; along with chicken pot pie from Centerville (Mass.) Pie Company, jams and jellies from Blake Hill Preserves in Windsor, Vt.; and pickled relishes, beans and garlic from Lyman’s Specialties in Wilmington, Vt.
Then of course, there’s the apples. The orchard grows 50 varieties on its 50 fruit-bearing acres. Right now, the stand offers pick-your-own Macoun, Empire, Honeycrisp, Mcintosh, Gala, Ginger Gold and Cortland apples by the peck and half-bushel; all pre-picked varieties are also available. Later in October, the majority of the orchard’s heirloom apples are ready for harvest, many which will last for months if properly stored.
Alyson’s growing method — integrated pest management —can prevent pest infestations and organic problems before they happen by monitoring crops and treating only as needed.
There are more than apples at the orchard in the fall: you can also find winter squash and pumpkins as well as unusual gourds (also grown at the orchard) for sale outside the farm stand. On the weekends, you can purchase picking bags and pay for your merchandise at the outdoor register. In the interest of health safety, those who do not want to wait in line should bring cash for purchases (there is also an ATM on-site).
The late Bob Jasse and his wife, Susan, created the 450-acre orchard in the late 1980s, naming it in memory for the youngest of Bob’s seven children.
In addition to being known as an apple-picking destination, Alyson’s is also a popular wedding venue with its post-and-beam reception hall, rolling lawns, serene ponds and stunning views of the Connecticut River Valley.
Chosen as one of the 12 Top Orchards in the U.S. by Travel and Leisure, Alyson’s has also been featured in Yankee Magazine and New Hampshire Bride Magazine, and chosen numerous times for the “Best Of” by New Hampshire Magazine as well as a “Best of The Knot” wedding venue and the Wedding Wire Couples Choice Award.
Of course, as with any public venue, there are COVID-19 protocols now in place to visit the orchard. To promote social distancing, visitors must enter the farm stand through the front door and exit through the side door; and a distance of six feet from others must be maintained both inside and outside as well as a mandatory face covering worn in the store. Also, a limited number of customers will be allowed inside the farm stand at any time. Hands must be sanitized at a station before and after apple picking; no outside containers or cloth bags are allowed for picking; and visitors are asked to avoid touching displayed fruit they do not intend to buy.
On the weekends, Pat’s Apple Cider Donut Truck serves made-to-order hot, fresh cider donuts from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Also on the truck menu is a “donut sundae” with ice cream and topped with whipped cream, hot chocolate and other treats.
Little Zoe’s Pizza from Keene is offering fresh-baked specialty pizza from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday only for both). During the week, drinks and snacks are available for purchase at the farm stand.
Wagon rides are offered on the weekends only (mask required). The weekends are also a suitable time to bring the whole family and visit the goats, enjoy the playground or play a game of bocce ball on the court on-site.
For those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, it’s suggested they visit the orchard during the week when it’s less busy.
Owner Susan Jasse said despite the pandemic’s presence, the season has started off very well. She enjoys greeting customers and taking souvenir photos of children to send to their parents.
Her favorite fall activity at the orchard? “I love petting each and every dog,” she said.