We brought the girls on their very first apple picking excursion. I'd have to say that it was a mild success.
There are quite a few places to go around here so I spent a little bit of time researching them and asking others for their opinions. We finally decided to check out Tougas Family Farm in Northboro, MA for several different reasons. In addition to apples, they have pumpkins, a petting "zoo" area, playground and food stand.
We arrived close to noon but the girls had been snacking that morning so we decided to get some cider donuts instead of attempting to eat lunch. At first glance, I was somewhat impressed that the food prices were not outrageous. The donuts were 85 cents each and I think Rich said it was cheaper to buy a half a dozen, which he did. I also took note that hot dogs sold for $1.75, which I didn't think was too bad considering how expensive things can be around here.
After we ate our donuts, we headed over to the apple picking area. Now, here's where I start complaining. What you do is purchase a bag prior to boarding the tractor/wagon pull that will take you into the orchards. We wanted to purchase the smallest bag, which was a peck (10 lbs) and cost $15. The problem was that the smallest bag was only good for admission of three people. They want you to pay $5 for each additional person entering the orchard. I've never heard of such foolishness!
So we attempted to just purchase the smallest bag anyway. Teenage Girl, who was ringing up our purchase, looked at the five of us and asked how many people. She then wanted to charge us $25, which, mind you, is what it costs to purchase the 1/2 bushel bag (about 20 lbs), which does allow "admission" for up to 5 people. I did say to her, "Really? You charge even for.....well, toddlers?" Her response was, "As long as they can walk, we have to charge you?" Rich jokingly said, "We should have just carried them over here." Teenage Girl did look amused.
Obviously, we purchased the bigger bag. Why wouldn't you? And take note that they write in a big black marker how many people are in your party on the bag. They were pretty strict with their rules. I understand that the economy is not the greatest and I'm sure Tougas Family Farm has taken a hit just like everyone else. I'm sure they conducted some type of analysis as to how they were losing money and ways to make money but it left the place with a bad vibe, in my opinion. It took away from the whole "it's a beautiful fall day to pick apples" experience.
And in case you think I am being sarcastic, you don't know how many times I heard, "If you pick an apple, it is yours. Don't drop it on the ground." Enough already. As our tractor/wagon was pulling into the orchard, it stopped to wait for the one in front of us to unload. An employee joined us to give us more rules and firmly said, "Please do not stand up until we move up to the unloading area." Well, this toddler (he had to have been less than 2 years old) stood up and the employee looks at him and sternly says, "Sit down." Even the people waiting in line behind us to leave the orchard were making comments like, "Don't touch the grass. If you pull any of it up, we will have to buy it."
The girls did okay at first and had fun deciding which apples they wanted to pick. I couldn't believe that they were just walking around eating apples.
Now, I know what you're thinking. This place has to charge admission because people like us are going in there and eating apples. We purposely did not fill up our bag because of the apples (probably five of them) that were consumed during our short jaunt around the orchard.
The grass in the rows of trees was really long but trampled and there were a ton of apples on the ground. I'm assuming that the grass and rotting apples attracted the million tiny flies. They were on the ground and as we walked down a row, they would fly up and swarm around. The flies weren't too interested in humans but because they were low to the ground and because the girls are so short, it was not a pretty scene.
We really did not spend a lot of time apple picking. At the end, Rich and I just grabbed a bunch of apples as quickly as possible so that we could high tail it out of there. The girls are still really too young to actually pick the apples. And believe you me, I had to hear and read the correct way to pick an apple many, many times. You hold it with both hands, lift and twist. Do not pull. We had to help the girls pick their apples and they became bored with it, which is understandable.
Talk about marketing - the pumpkin patch, which is partial patch and partial picked pumpkins, is right where you exit the tractor/wagon ride from the orchard. And speaking of exiting, there is an employee there as you get off of the ride who will chase you down to mark your bag with a big black X. I'm assuming that is to prevent "bad apples" from dumping their apples into their cars and returning for more. For free.
I entertained Allie and Em in the pumpkin patch while Rich and Anna loaded the apples into the van. Anna also needed to be cathed. When they returned, the girls picked out some pumpkins. At 49 cents a pound, I thought they were kind of expensive. But I'm not really a pumpkin pricing expert.
We then decided to head back over to the food stand. Unfortunately, it was packed even though it was two o'clock in the afternoon. I brought the girls into the petting zoo area while Rich loaded the pumpkins into the van. At this point, the girls were all saying that they wanted ice cream. Now, when they say they want ice cream, they won't eat anything else. If we had purchased hot dogs, they most likely would have been wasted.
Rich decided to buy two apple crisps and one ice cream, which only came in one size. He assumed that the ice cream would be large and that he could split it up for the girls to share and that they might also eat some of our apple crisp. I assumed that the apple crisp (over $3) came with ice cream. It did not. That's an extra $1.50. The solo ice cream that Rich purchased cost more than $3 and was teeny tiny. He split it into three different cups and the girls ate it in no time. I ended up giving Anna most of my ice cream. They didn't like the apple crisp either.
Okay, so let's check out the playground. Yeah, same as usual. Made for older, bigger kids. We did find one climbing structure/slide in the back that the girls could use. It was extremely crowded in there and very difficult for two adults to watch three three year olds. There was a bigger structure that was obviously intended for older children and Allie basically had a mental breakdown when we told her that it was for big kids and she couldn't go on it.
Imagine an ant covered piece of food. Okay, that's what this play structure looked like. There were way too many kids on it and for the girls to climb up and go down the slide would have required me to climb up and go down the slide with them. To distract them, we told them that we needed to check on the apples and pumpkins in the van.
When we arrived back at the van, the girls inspected the apples and pumpkins and then decided that they each needed to hold two apples for the ride home. They all actually ate some of what they were holding on the way home.
So not a complete success. Not a failure. For the most part, we all had fun. I'm thinking we may check out a different farm next year.....