By Mike Gioscia.
For generations, South Shore kids and their parents have made the fall trip to pick apples at C.N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater a ritual, and you can still do that today. What started as a small-scale operation almost 100 years ago with a few McIntosh apple trees on a 20-acre plot has transformed into the biggest part of this family business, with 16 acres of trees on the farm’s now 120 acres.
The farm’s founder, Carl Nelson Smith, started as a potato farmer on that original parcel in the 1920s. His son Carlton took the farm in new directions after graduating from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture in the late 1950s. Carlton started the “pick-your-own” model at the farm primarily for strawberries. That model was very successful, as people used canning and freezing techniques to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables year round in those days even more than they do today.
In 1984, Carlton’s sons, Carl Jr. and Chris, and daughter Caryl worked together to incorporate the farm and began the “Pick- Your-Own Apples” business. Though Carl Jr. passed away in 2011, Chris and Caryl continue to work on the farm, managing most of the day-to-day operations.
Sixteen acres of apple trees means about 5000 trees. “Only growers understand all the work that is done on a property like this,” Chris explained, “You wouldn’t believe it.” Caryl also looks after the animals and the many greenhouses on the property. “It’s all about irrigation,” continued Chris. In addition, the siblings run a popular retail farm stand, which has been hitting the mark with online ordering and curbside pickup.
However, starting every Labor Day, it’s all about apples! “We start with McIntosh first, and then the other traditional varieties, Macouns and Cortlands,” Chris said. “But we also have brought in the newer varieties over the years, including Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, and Empire, to name a few. They are available as they ripen,” he added. Picking is very busy until Columbus Day. “We’re open Wednesday through Sunday for apple picking,” Caryl explained. This year especially, “people really have been happy to get out of the house, and we’re thrilled to see them.”
CN Smith Farm is complying with all the Covid-19 guidelines as laid out by the state, CDC, and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and using online signup for picking times to avoid crowds. “It really worked well in the summer for strawberry and blueberry picking, and we expect the same for apples. It helps with the overall flow of people and makes customers feel comfortable,” added Caryl. The farm requires everyone to wear face coverings in the pick-your-own fields, store, and greenhouses, and reminds everyone to maintain a 6-foot distance as well. And don’t worry, their Donut Barn, home of their famous Apple Cider Donuts, is open too!
Reservations are required to pick your own apples and you can book two days ahead from the hour on their website. For example, on Tuesday at 9:00 am you’d be able to see the availability for Thursday at 9:00 am. They have special morning hours for those 60+ years of age.
There are always farming challenges with an operation like this, pandemic or not. “Insects, animals, crop disease, weather, you name it,” said Chris. “The erratic weather has been really bad as of late. We had an early spring cold this year, then a summer drought—it’s tough on the crops.”
Caryl added, “People have been planting more of their own gardens because of the Covid-19. I’m all for it, and I think people are realizing just how hard it is to grow. It’s really a lot of work!” “As it gets hot, the pick-your-own crowd can slow down, but the fruit keeps growing and ripening, so the work never slows down.
It actually picks up if people aren’t out picking,” Chris explained. Luckily, they have a large family that stays connected by helping in the busy fall months. “Plenty of cousins and extended family [are] here to help,” Chris added.
And the farm continues to grow. Next year, they’ll have five new acres of high-density apple orchards coming online, capable of 1500 bushels per acre (versus 500 per standard acre).
CN Smith Farm Stand and Retail Store is open through December and features a vast array of farm treats, from their own veggies and fruits to donuts, honey, jarred items, spices, produce boxes, snacks, and more. It’s a must-stop after spending time picking your own in the field. CN Smith’s Garden Center also offers hay, feed, plants, flowers, and gardening supplies too.
As you look for outdoor family fun this fall, make sure this third-generation family farm, CN Smith, is on your list. The kids, and the kid inside you, will love it!
Supporting local never tasted so good.
Stock up to make this Crisp Apple Salad when you arrive back home. Recipe.
CN Smith Farm
325 South Street
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
CN Smith Farm can also be found selling their produce at the Braintree Farmers Market, Saturdays 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, at Braintree Town Hall.
By: Mike Gioscia is a writer, drummer, filmmaker, and host of Americanarama on 95.9 WATD.