Shelburne Farm, located just 20 miles west of downtown Boston, is the oldest pick-your-own apple orchard in eastern Massachusetts. It has been voted the regions best; a small slice of authentic agricultural paradise where time slows down and the best new england farming traditions are preserved in living color. Planted at the turn of the twentieth century, the orchard has thrived under the ownership of several hardworking, passionate, and dedicated families. Currently owned and operated by the Painter family, it is the perfect destination for anyone seeking to experience the timeless New England tradition of harvesting fresh fruit while creating memories to last a lifetime.
The Painters became proprietors of Shelburne Farm in the 1990's and operate the farm today as a pick-your-own orchard open to the public during the months of apple harvest. The Painters have embraced the magic of autumnal apple picking and its unique ability to bring families together in the crisp fall air for an afternoon of outdoor fun. Devoted to fostering this heartwarming tradition, three generations of the Painters, orchard helpers, and family friends over the last 20 years have worked together tirelessly to make Shelburne Farm thrive in a new era, with the help of the UMass Extension Fruit Program introducing new planting and horticultural techniques and in the process bringing to bear in the orchards as many new varieties of apples, peaches, asian pears, and pumpkins as possible. Today orchard guests can still delight in picking from a bounty of traditional New England apple favorites (McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Empire) but are also afforded the opportunity to harvest and experience the vibrant tastes of apple varieties new (Honeycrisp, Crimson Crisp, SnowSweet, Crimson Gold, Gala, Pink Lady, Autumn Crisp, Blondee) old (Esopus Spinzenburg, Chenago Strawberry, Cox's Orange Pippen, Kidd's Orange Redd, Ellison's Orange, Hubbardston Nonesuch, Fameuse), ancient (Ashmead's Kernel, Flower of Kent, Blue Pearmain), or even pink-fleshed (!!) (Scarlett Surprise, Mountain Rose, Pink Pearl) as well as more than 20 varieties of yellow and white peaches, several types of asian pears, and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Beyond growing world-class fruit in an idyllic setting just a few short miles from Boston, the Painters have sought to welcome an ever expanding circle of new guests, families, and friends each year to their orchard by adding exciting family activities such as hay rides, pedal tractors, a moon bounce, a tractor playground, live music on harvest weekends, and a barnyard full of farm animals. Old traditions such as Morris Dancing and pressing cider with a manual screw-type press are on also display at times during the harvest season.
Before the Painter family arrived, David and Jean Lynch, long-time family friends of the Painters, owned and operated the farm from the mid-1960's until the late nineties. Under the Lynch stewardship, the orchard blossomed into the first pick-your-own apple farm in eastern Massachusetts. The Lynch family worked for thirty years clearing land, moving rocks, and planting trees, in the process expanding the orchard's once tiny footprint to more than 50 acres. They pioneered the use of semi-dwarf trees in the region, a revolutionary convenience for customers that improved the pick-your-own experience, and were early adopters of green practices such as re-purposing large-scale agricultural equipment, saving from the scrap heap huge retired wind machines and moving them up the coast from the Florida orange groves to the Stow orchards in order to ward off spring frosts. When the Lynch family were forced to part with their beloved farm, they sold the orchard to the Painters but also partnered with the state of Massachusetts, local conservation groups such as the Stow Conservation Trust and Sudbury Land Trustees, and the town of Stow in order to place the orchard land under an agricultural preservation restriction. This action ensured that the land will be utilized for productive farming in perpetuity and serves as a brilliant legacy for Jean and David Lynch.
Prior to the Painters, Lynches, and before the dawn of the pick-your-own era, siblings David, Roy and Catherine Clemens purchased the farmland in the early 1920’s, with the two brothers operating the orchard as partners. When David Clemens married in 1929, they acquired a neighboring orchard, known today as Nashoba Winery in Bolton, Massachusetts. During this time, their orchards sprawled across 180 acres of apple trees, ambitious laborers were able to harvest 60,000 bushels in a good year, and the storage facilities were packed with nearly 35,000 bushels of freshly picked produce. Many of the apples were trucked to markets in Boston and New York, as well as to the Table Talk Pie Co. in Worcester. David passed away in the mid 1960’s, and the land was divided and sold. It has since been passed from family to family for nearly a century. Each has left a unique mark on the land, while managing to preserve the rich history of New England agriculture for families to enjoy and experience today.