Can you go apple picking during the pandemic? The short answer is “yes” although like everything else we do right now, the “sport” has been modified to make it as safe as possible to mitigate the virus.
The U.S. is the second largest apple producer in the world (after China) so opportunities for apple picking abound in most states across the country (except Florida and certain warm areas of Texas). The U.S. produced some 5.5 million tons of apples in 2019 with Washington State leading the pack, followed by New York and Michigan in that order.
Peak season varies somewhat depending on the variety of apples being harvested but September and October are the peak months in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere. During early fall, when the apple crop is especially bountiful, farms in many towns in the Hudson Valley open to the public for “apple tourism” that offers opportunities for pick-your-own apples.
If you’re like me—on the lookout for relatively safe things to do outdoors as the near-perfect fall weather approaches—apple-picking is one great option. Many apple farms are close to our home in Westchester County (nicknamed The Golden Apple). The good news is that like many other places across the country, New York State (whose official state fruit is the apple) has designated the activity as low-risk, setting capacity limits and other safeguards during the pandemic.
What’s different about apple picking during the pandemic?
So what’s different?
This year, because there are limits on how many people can pick apples at the same time, you may need to make reservations on-line in advance or wait your turn if the farm operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. There also may be time limits on how long you can stay. In New York State, capacity in this low-risk outdoor category is limited to 33%, although I’m not sure how capacity is calculated on a sprawling farm).
Social distancing measures
Social distancing will be enforced, with visitors expected to stay six feet apart. Unless you go with your own pod of people or social bubble (family members or others with whom you are self-quarantining), try to limit the numbers of people in your group or drive to the farm in the same vehicle.
If hayrides are available on site, they are likely to be socially distanced, too. Although apple-picking is a family-friendly activity, many farms won’t be allowing petting zoos this year.
Face coverings are likely to be required so be sure to bring yours and wear it!
Although many farms have set up extra hand-washing stations, it’s prudent to bring hand sanitizer with you, especially if you think you may need to use a public restroom during your visit.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to call the farm you’re hoping to visit to make sure that you know the farm’s schedule (which may be different from the hours listed on their website).
Where to find pick-your-own farms near you
If you’re ready to find the apple farm near you, check out this handy website with pick-your-own apple farms, searchable by country, state and locality. Once you get there, as always, look for firm, crisp, unbruised apples and twist, rather than pull them off the branch.
If you’re interested in apple trivia, this page from the University of Illinois Extension ia a terrific resource.
And when you get home
Of course, bringing home a bushel of apples allows for great creativity in the kitchen, too, apple pies and more. In anticipation of National Apple Day, which falls on October 21, more than three dozen inns and B&Bs across the country have collaborated on a “Still in Business” campaign—offering the public 42 postcards with apple recipes shared by innkeepers.
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