Apple picking during COVID-19

You know that writing opinion pieces has become a lifestyle when the first thing that comes to mind when you do something new is, “We should write an op about it!” So please enjoy our experience at Honey Pot Hill, and we hope that this will inspire you to go apple picking this very weird year. 

Neither of us have ever been apple picking before, and after everything that happened this year, we thought it would be a nice thing to do to get away from all of the schoolwork that suddenly fell on our heads. After doing some intense Googling, we found that the best place to go apple picking in Massachusetts (according to some magazine anyway) is Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow. This place also won us over because they have a maze that is over a mile long. Because of COVID-19 regulations, they ask that people register for the time that they would like to go apple picking, but you can visit the farm without a reservation. They allow up to 100 people per the 15-minute entrance block. On workdays, they welcome walk-ins, according to their website. 

Our adventure began with finding a parking spot: We came on a Saturday, so, as you can imagine, there were a lot of people there. However, there were also workers who directed us to open spots, which made the whole process go a lot faster. The maze was really fun. Neither of us had ever done a hedge maze before, so we were very excited. 

Our favorite part about the maze was the smell—the maze was made out of pine trees, and the smell…. It was therapeutic. We didn’t want to leave, just because of the amazing smell, which we could smell even through our masks. 

Overall, in terms of COVID, we felt relatively safe in the maze, although it was impossible to keep six feet apart from people at all times (the maze is way too narrow for you to always be six feet apart from people). When we first went in, we thought that we would eventually get frustrated with the maze and give up, but that never happened! The maze also provides you with some checkpoints and bridges to make the journey interesting and to also inject a bit of strategy into what seems like complete randomness. 

There were also some groups of people that we ran into over and over again, and you build relationships with these people while in the maze. Sometimes you are even like, “Oh my god, not you again!” They also offer a map in case you get lost in the maze. Though it’s very easy to spend hours in the maze without even getting frustrated, we would still recommend taking a map just in case.

After walking around the maze, we were hungry for apple cider and apple cider donuts. Both were amazing, especially on a hot day. What was not as amazing was the waiting in line to get the donuts. You were lucky if the closest person to you was six centimeters away, let alone six feet. Also, since this was an area with food, most people took their masks off; although that is understandable while eating, that was not the safest thing we could’ve done. If you are very COVID-cautious, we would recommend staying away from the donut and food windows. Though we have to say the donuts––they had plain apple cider and cinnamon and sugar apple cider donuts––were amazing. We couldn’t even choose a favorite: John preferred the plain while Sasha preferred the cinnamon and sugar, so try both! They were also not too expensive, at one donut for $1, and half a dozen for $5. 

The farm store had similar problems to the donut window; although there were people who seemed to be monitoring the amount of people in the store, the store was pretty packed. There were groups of people and lines (not socially distanced) throughout the entire store. This was definitely the largest crowd we have been in since COVID, and honestly this made us uncomfortable, so we just grabbed the apple cider we wanted and left. They do sell apples, pears and other fruits grown at the farm, as well as honey and caramel apples. And, of course, the apple cider, which is what we went there for in the first place. There are most likely other things they sell that we just did not get a chance to notice because we left so quickly. There was also a beehive there that John thought was very cool. Once again, if you are COVID-cautious, we would recommend staying away from the store as well, at least on weekends. 

Speaking of crowds, the area with the animals was not exactly the safest place to be. It is close to where people eat, and as you can imagine, where all the kids are. If you want to stay six feet away from people, stay away from the animals, too. They were, however, very cute; we both loved the goats and the piggies, and who doesn’t love chickens!  

When moving to the apple fields to go apple picking, you have the option to either walk by foot or take a hayride. Being the lazy people we are after walking around in the maze, we of course chose to take the hayride! The hayride was very fun and bumpy, almost like a very miniature theme park ride. Although, we must add that social distancing measures were definitely not upheld on the hayrides. I would be very surprised if the seats were one foot apart. That being said, they were very convenient to ride, especially after walking all over the maze, and they definitely added to the experience. We did not realize just how convenient it was until our ride back: We would have had to lug pounds and pounds of apples back to the car, but, on the hayride, all we had to do was jump on and take a small break after all of the walking!

Apple picking was, as expected, by far our favorite activity! When we arrived at the apple fields, it looked like there were miles and miles of apple trees that were ready to be picked. Even near the end of apple season, there were so many good apples that were ready to be picked. There was also a large variety of apples; from Gala to Honeycrisp to even pears, we were never out of options. 

Conveniently enough, they even provided ladders scattered throughout the fields so that pickers could reach some of the higher-hanging fruit. After gathering all of these apples and bringing them home, we had one dish in mind: apple pie. The apple pie that was made with the apples we picked were absolutely delicious. A perfect amount of sugar and caramelization from the apples combined with vanilla ice cream was an impeccable combination. We would certainly go apple picking at Honey Pot Hill again if we were to make another apple pie. In regards to COVID regulations, the orchards were significantly better than the maze or the donut line: There was so much space that it was really difficult to get close to anyone, and if you did, then it did not last a long time. 

Although apple picking season is almost over, we encourage you to get away from your computer screen and schoolwork and spend some time outdoors! 

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