WILBRAHAM, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Fall is almost here and apple picking season is upon us.
It's a popular activity this time of year in New England and one of the busiest times for Rice's Fruit Farm in Wilbraham.
Macintosh, Gala, and Empire apples - you name it. A variety of 13 different apples hang from the orchard trees at Rice's Fruit Farm just waiting to be picked.
"I think it's a part of the whole experience. They are here to apple pick, they want the apples for eating fresh and there's a lot of traditions for making apple pie and apple crisp," said Anthony Maloni, owner of Rice's Fruit Farm.
The Wilbraham farm is a popular western Massachusetts attraction all year long, but when it comes to apple picking, the people come flocking.
"Hundreds, if not thousands this past weekend, so a little crazy, but we are able to accommodate everyone, so it works," Maloni added.
Maloni told Western Mass News he took over Rice's Fruit Farm eight years ago. Since then, it took them three years to fully restore the orchards. Now, there are 40 acres of apple orchards.
"Last year, we had two-thirds of the orchards picked out, but this year, I don't see that being a problem because a 100 percent of the orchard is restored," Maloni explained.
This year, the crop is even better than the last, due in part to the weather. There's also more trees and more apples.
"The weather has actually been really great. We had a rainy spring. It seemed to rain every two days then we had the dry weather and now, the cooler night, which brings a vivid color," Maloni said.
Maloni explained the different types of apples ripen at different times, so you can pick from any of the apple trees, but Rice's will definitely let you know which apples are ready for picking.
"They may all look the same. They look ripe, but the sugar levels all vary," Maloni noted.
At the apple orchard, they suggest the sooner, the better if you want to do some apple picking. They also said since there are so many flavors and types to actually pick the apple yourself and taste them before you buy them.
What most don't realize is all the work and maintenance it takes to take care of the apple orchard and with the New England weather, there's always difficulties.
"You have pruning in the winter, mowing, you have mowing, you have to monitor for insects, watch out for frost...not much you can do about that. Also, watch out for drought," Maloni said.
At Rice's, they said they are all about the hard work and experience. They also have pumpkins, cider, donuts, and ice cream to give families a full on-the-farm experience.