by Alex Hallowell
When we arrived at Noquochoke Orchards, there was a strange smell wafting over the hill. As we wandered around, looking for the orchard’s proprietor, our noses crinkled as the wind picked up, rotten fish is not a smell one expects at an apple orchard.
We soon found out what the stench was: oyster shells. The farm uses them instead of pavement, and they were setting a layer as we prepared for our tour.
Over the hill, in the peach orchard, the smell subsided and was replaced with that of fresh sea air from the river that abuts the property. Looking down over the hill at the thousands (it seems) of apple, pear, and peach trees, Sue told us the meaning of Noquochoke, it was the local Native American name meaning “east branch of the river,” a fitting name for a peaceful farm on the, you guessed it, east branch of the river. There are downsides however, of being a waterfront property: in 1991 Hurricaine Bob devastated the area, inundating one of the freshly planted groves on a ledge only a few yards from the rivers edge. Luckily the grove survived, and continues to bear fruit today.
We sampled some of the peaches (the apples still have months to go), picking them from the low trees ourselves, and with the juice running down my fingers and face, I can say wholeheartedly: delicious. For a farm that has been operated by the Smith family since 1899, it seems they have the process down pat.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they aren’t up on the newest techniques. The newest, and most visually prevalent addition to the farm was a recommendation by the UMass Amherst Cooperative Extension program: the trees are heavily pruned to grow low to the ground and close together. This makes it possible for one person to pick, where they once needed a team. This keeps labor costs down, and the pick goes faster than it ever could have before.
When asked about other issues the farmers faced, Sue said the birds are always a problem, but that Mother Nature had provided a solution: When a loud noise sounds, the birds scatter from the trees, and become easy pickings for predatory birds of the area. The circle of life, she smirked.
594 Drift Road
First week of August thru Thanksgiving