Travel Guide: A Nostalgic Trip to Brookfield Orchards

Apple picking is one of the most classic and beloved fall traditions, right alongside jumping into piles of leaves and carving pumpkins. Every year, people visit apple orchards in droves, picking bushels of fresh fruit alongside their families. Maybe they would get some fresh baked goods with autumnal spices or take a relaxing wagon ride. With all these options, an apple orchard is a fun fall pastime for anybody to take part in. Growing up in central Massachusetts, there was one place my family and many others would always go; Brookfield Orchards.

Founded in 1918, Brookfield Orchards, in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, has now been serving the residents of the state for over a hundred years. Recently, I took a trip there while they were in the middle of some fall festivities. Walking around and watching the fun that the families were having made me nostalgic for all the times I went there when I was young. I can remember walking the orchards with my friends and family. We would eat the apples as we picked them, and then we would go into the Country Store for candy. After we got home, we would make an apple pie with the same apples we picked. It was at one point a beloved yearly tradition, although one that slowly faded away as we got older. However, the fond memories themselves never faded.

As a tribute to the place I grew up in, I decided to make a travel blog about all the wonderful things there one can do. This article will discuss not just their apple orchards, but their Country Store, the products they sell, and the events they hold as well. I can only hope something here catches your eye and encourages you to visit.

The Beginning and Brief History of Brookfield Orchards

People standing and sitting near the Brookfield Orchards Snack Bar
Photo by Carly B. (author)

The history of Brookfield Orchards begins in the year 1918 with a man named Arthur W. Lincoln. He was a stockbroker from Boston who purchased the land that now holds the orchards as a summer home. He was the one to plant the very first trees and used the apples he grew to make an assortment of products. The orchard’s apple butter and jams they currently sell can be traced back to him. He would make these things and then sell them on the side. ( http://brookfieldorchardsonline.com/ )

In 1929, as a result of the stock market crash, both he and his wife made the summer home their permanent home. After Arthur’s death, his son, Hamilton “Hammy” Lincoln, took over the business. It was Hammy’s second wife, Helen, that helped turn the Country Store into what it is today by adding a larger variety of products to sell. After his death, it was his son Tony who assumed all of the responsibilities, and after his death, his sister Louise became the president. This is a position she still holds now. (http://brookfieldorchardsonline.com/)

Getting to the Orchard

You know you’re getting close when you see the first hand-painted “Brookfield Orchards” sign. From there, you follow the arrow on each sign until you reach the entrance. In front of the apple orchards is an area with picnic tables and playground rides, such as a big Merry-Go-Round. Even I have fond memories of being spun around on it from when I was a kid. It is the perfect place to stop and relax, eat your food, or for kids to let out all of their energy. After that, you park your car in one of the designated areas (for free!) and get ready to pick your apples.

The Apples and the Orchards

Apple trees on a sunny day
Photo by Carly B. (author)

Once you enter, you pay for a bag and enter the expansive apple orchards. You can either purchase a pack or a half a bushel-size bag. A pack of apples is around two gallons and half a bushel is around four. Here, you’ll find 17 varieties of delicious, freshly grown apples. Amongst them are classics like McIntosh, Red and Golden Delicious, Cortland, Honey Crisp, and more. Some start growing as early as mid-July or August, but most start in September. It is then that it is the best time to go, as that is when the greatest amount and variety of apples are available. Right now, in October, some of the best varieties to get are Northern Spy, Empire, Liberty, and Spencer, alongside a few other types.

However, the orchards are good for more than just the fruit. During the mild fall weather, there is nothing better than taking a relaxing walk. (Although watch out for bees when the weather is extra warm, they like apples as much as the people do.) This is especially true when one has the beautiful New England scenery to take in as they do so. Even as we were walking, my boyfriend and I could not resist taking some photos (mine can be seen above). The views truly are lovely, especially with the hills visible in the distance.

For those who do not want to pick their apples, or when the apples are not able to be picked, they also sell them in-store. They can be found throughout the Country Store. There is even a large machine in the back that washes them!

Apple Products and Baked Goods

Their apples are also used in a variety of dishes, many of which are considered classics by long-time visitors. What is probably their most famous are the apple dumplings. One way to get them is by purchasing them premade from the Brookfield Orchards Country Store. Although many people will say the best way to eat them is hot and fresh from the snack bar with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. Speaking of the Country Store, there are many more delicious goodies to be found there.

Their apple cider donuts, also found in the store, are extremely popular. The line was wrapped all around the store just for them. Apple pies, crisps, bread, and cakes are also available. For those not looking for baked goods, there are also apple butter, jellies, jams, and ciders. Alongside their apple-based products, they have other types of food made by themselves or other local businesses.

The Country Store

The Country Store, with some Christmas descoration set up.
Photo by Carly B. (author)

They have baked goods in other fall flavors, such as pumpkin. I bought a pumpkin cake when I went, and I would definitely recommend it. My family and I devoured it pretty quickly. Cheeses can be found refrigerated, and pastries made from other seasonal ingredients like pumpkin are also available. To the left when you walk in, there is a room that sells pasta and locally made sauces and marinades. Seasonally, they’ll also have fresh pies, as well as soups, chilis, chowders, and classic items like hamburgers and hot dogs.

They are also well-known for their fudge, made in-house at the Country Store. It comes in a large variety of flavors, ranging from classic chocolate to more unique ones like maple walnut. It can be bought by the registers, or towards the back of the left section of the store at the counter where it’s made. The part of the store with the fudge counter contains a variety of other items alongside it. Next to the counter is a penny candy section. Good for kids, and those of us who are older and still have a sweet tooth. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy browsing for myself! They have beloved classics like Reese’s Peanut Cups and Smarties, as well as older items like candy cigarettes. The country store does not just sell food, though, but sells all kinds of unique items.

Vintage and Unique Collectibles

Fall and Halloween themed decorations sitting on a table
Photo by Carly B. (author)

Other items include merchandise bearing the store’s logo and name, and even a book about its 100 years (and counting) history. Local, handmade items like stationery, clothing and even books are available as well. There are even items for your pets like custom leashes and treats.

Right outside the doorway of that section and to the left is a section filled with vintage items. Those who are collectors or have a love for unique items should definitely check this section out. They often sell seasonal decorations, for fall in general, but also Halloween and Christmas-related things. Vintage magazines, toys, books, and DVDs can be found scattered throughout. Not to mention the huge selection of kitchenware (including two displays of salt and pepper shakers!).

However, my personal favorite items are vintage and handmade pieces of art. Landscapes and still life on canvas, paintings on wood and tile. All of them are beautiful, and many of them are local. I even recently bought a beautiful tile piece for only 10 dollars to put in my room. This section is great to find things for a collector you know, or a gift for anyone, really.  You can even buy things to spruce up your own home.

The country store also has two restrooms near the entrance of the store, for anybody who needs to use them. You can find these restrooms close to the refrigerated section mentioned earlier in the article.

The Country Store is open year-round from 9 am to 5 pm (barring major holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July). So even if you can’t get there in time to pick the apples, you can at least browse around the lovely store, and maybe even bring something home.

People in small groups standing around the Brookfield Orchards parking lot.
Photo taken by author

Special Events and Festivities

Brookfield Orchards also holds many different events throughout the year, and sometimes even has live music performances. In late spring and throughout the summer months, they hold a flea market every few weeks or so. In early September, there’s a craft fair where people from around the area can buy and sell handmade items. There are also events like local author fairs. Through these events, Brookfield Orchards serves and supports the communities within Central Massachusetts.

When I went this past month, I had the pleasure of visiting while such events were going on. It was the first day they had pumpkins available for purchase, and people were in lines waiting for delicious food. There was even a beer and wine tasting. There was a wagon ride available for kids and families, and music was played live in front of the Country Store. Everywhere you turned there were creators selling their unique, handmade items. There were lines for the snack bar weaving all around, and the store was crowded with people. Even pets were allowed; one could see multiple people walking around with furry friends (all leashed up, of course).

It had been the same when I went the previous year, and I had walked in on the craft fair. Again, large crowds had been drawn in. Again, the orchard and the store were crowded, parking spots hard to find amidst the large amounts of people coming in. People came from all over to come to Brookfield Orchards.

However, do not let the crowds deter you. Rest assured, it is still easy to move and find your way around, and the long lines move quickly. It is definitely worth it to manoeuvre through them for all the great things you can do while there.

A Tribute to Brookfield Orchards

Brookfield Orchards is a landmark of Central Massachusetts families, having served them for years. It is clear why, over the course of their 100-plus year history, they have garnered such a large and loyal base. For every event, the community is involved. Not just for their craft fair, but for every event, people in the area are invited to sell their products. Local artisans, breweries, and bands come together for their special events. It shows they care about and want to support the community that has supported them with patronage in kind.

That is without mentioning their stuff outside of events. People travel from all over Worcester County (and beyond) to browse their orchards; it is often you hear about people planning on going there when the season starts. Then there is the Country Store, which is beloved enough to keep the business running even outside of harvest season.

There is truly something for everybody here. That, and their continued support and dedication to those around them has kept them long-lasting. It is no wonder that their mascot is the “Happy Apple”; people who come here are always leaving happy.

I hope this article has convinced some people to come and give Brookfield Orchards a visit. It is a good experience for families, children, couples, and anyone looking for a fun fall time. Not to mention, it is all at a good price with free parking and admission. If not, I hope I have at least conveyed the importance that this enduring business has had in my community and will continue to have.

 

References

Brookfield Orchards. (n.d.). Brookfield Orchards Online. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from http://brookfieldorchardsonline.com/index.htm

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