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Family Traditions on the Farm

Nostalgia Runs Deep at Highland Orchards Each Fall as Families Gather for Apples and Pumpkins

Fall is in the air and that can only mean one thing - apple cider doughnuts. Okay, we’re kidding (slightly - it is the food issue after all) … it means it’s time to head to Highland Orchards. This 200-acre farm located on Marshallton Thorndale Road has become an annual pilgrimage for many West Chester families, mine included. Weekends are often buzzing with families picking their own apples or heading to pick out their prized pumpkins. It’s a chance to gather everyone together for some much-needed family time, stealing a few hours away from the chaos of fall sports and activities. The familiarity of this yearly fall trip brings about a feeling of nostalgia that seems to grow with you as your children grow. There is no doubt that Highland Orchards are a staple in the fall landscape of West Chester!

History and Mission of Highland Orchard 

Highland Orchards was established in 1832 and is still owned and operated by the descendants of the original farmers. The first farm was located in Wilmington, DE with the West Chester location purchased in 1941. The family used to drive their tractors from Wilmington to West Chester and back when Route 202 was a single-lane dirt road. The farm has continued to grow and mature to what is today which offers multiple pick-your-own crops and educational opportunities for school children and families. 

According to Alan Hodge, an employee of Highland Orchards, the heart of the farm truly is to see smiles grow. “We get the biggest thrill from seeing the excitement of our guests each time they visit our farm. Many guests have mentioned family traditions and visit our farm as a destination to gather and pick apples and pumpkins even after some of the family or friends have moved away. There are not too many options where families can go to experience the great outdoors and pick their own produce directly from a plant or tree. We try to provide that wholesome ‘be a farmer for a day’ opportunity when each of our crops are available during harvest season.” 

Highland Orchards have about 10,000 apple trees on about 30 acres and grow 45 varieties which ripen between July and November. The first apples to ripen are Lodi and the last variety of the season is Pink Lady. The most popular apple varieties include Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, Must, and Stayman. Other crops on the farm include rhubarb, strawberries, sweet cherries, sour cherries, black raspberries, red raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, sweet corn, peaches, plums, pears, gourds, winter squash, hay, straw, and of course - pumpkins. Each year, Highland Orchards will produce several thousand pumpkins in different shapes, colors, and sizes. 

New This Fall

Whether you’re a seasoned orchard-goer, or a new family excited to venture to the orchard for the first time, you’re in for a treat this fall. Highland Orchards has partnered with Levante Brewing Company to operate a weekend beer garden through the end of October. They will be open for service from 11 am - 6 pm on Saturday and 11 am - 4 pm on Sunday. In addition to Levante, you will also find a rotation of food trucks at the farm, as well as their usual BBQ vendor.

Fans of corn mazes will be excited to know that this year’s maze is complete and proceeds will benefit the Chester County Food Bank. There will also be apple cannons available this year to see just how far you can shoot an apple across the field. 

If you’re looking for a special group activity, reservations can be made for evening hayrides to make s’mores around a primitive campfire or to simply enjoy a relaxing ride through the farm. While they don’t offer haunted hay rides, these special group hayrides tend to book up fast. 

Pick Your Own 

Reservations are no longer needed to participate in the pick your own (PYO) apples activity. There is a field access charge of $3 a person, which helps to offset labor and field costs. Guest prepay for the amount of apples they wish to pick: 1/2 peck (10-14 apples); peck (20-28 apples); 1/2 bushel (50-60 apples).

Pumpkins in the field are charged by size. Guests choose the pumpkin they wish to purchase and the field attendant will weigh it for them. 

If you’re doing PYO during the week, guests are able to self-drive to the orchard after checking in with the farm market. On the weekends, guests must use the open-air shuttle service, which is the same for both the pumpkin patch and the apple orchards. 

Bakery and Farm Market

The farm market and bakery are open all year at Highland Orchards. The market is a collaboration with local growers and businesses to offer locally sourced produce and products. Customers will find honey from the hives of the orchard, milk, cheese, soaps, candles, jams, and more. The farm produce grown on-site is also for sale in the market during the harvest seasons. 

The market is also home to the famous Highland Orchard bakery, known for its delicious pies and world-famous apple cider doughnuts. Since the market is open all year, customers can preorder pies for every holiday. When asked what makes the apple cider doughnuts so good, Alan gave up the secret ingredient - it's the fresh apples and apple cider produced on the farm! That’s what makes them so good! 

Time To Return to the Farm 

It's time to gather your family up and pick out those fall outfits, because Highland Orchards is waiting for you. While some things are new this year, one thing has remained the same - it's guaranteed family fun for all ages. Check their website and Facebook page for more information regarding what fruit is in season and all scheduled activities. Website: highlandorchards.net

Highland Orchard To Do List

1. Pick Your Own Apples and Pumpkins 

There are 45 varieties of apples from 10,000 trees and thousands of pumpkins to choose from. 

2. Corn Maze and Apple Cannons

Corn Maze proceeds benefit the Chester County Food Bank! 

3. Hayrides

Schedule a group hayride for s'mores over a campfire or a relaxing hay ride through the farm. 

4. Field Trips

Tours can be tailored to groups of all ages. 

5. Levante Brewing Company Beer Garden 

Kick back and relax at our orchard with the addition of the beer garden throughout October. 

"We get the biggest thrill from seeing the excitement of our guests each time they visit our farm." - Alan Hodges

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