When the crisp, cool fall air rolls into Ithaca, you know it's time to strap on your walking shoes and go search for the perfect apple at Littletree Orchards.
A favorite weekend activity for students and local residents alike, a trip to the 10,000-tree orchard has been satisfying people’s love for apples since 1973. For Sarah Hine ’12, though, it is a much larger part of her life. Having grown up on the orchard, she is now an employee, clocking over 20 hours per week doing something she loves: helping customers, monitoring inventory, and making delicious apple cider donuts. When she first started, she was out roaming the fields as a picker, gathering apples to be pressed into cider right on site.
With Littletree open for picking from July 1 through November 15, Hine says, “the work never stops. Even in the off-season we’re pruning trees and getting the area ready.” The orchard kicks July off with cherries and raspberries and continues with peaches in August. Apple season arrives shortly thereafter, and over 30 varieties ripen up before winter hits.
Littletree puts on a variety of special events throughout the season: Nature Adventures will get you walking around the orchard, enjoying all the wonders of the great outdoors. And during Super Cider Sundays, you can watch freshly picked apples being pressed into cider, then kick back and enjoy some live music, courtesy of local bands that play for free.
If you can't make the eight-mile trek from Ithaca to Newfield, Littletree can be found around the community as well. Apples and cider are sold at GreenStar, Ithaca’s local food co-op. The orchard also opens shop at the famous Ithaca Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning and makes an appearance at Ithaca’s annual Apple Harvest Festival in October. Waffle Frolic, a unique local business started by two Ithaca College alumni, just purchased the orchard’s apple cider too -- did someone say apple waffles?
Ithaca College has partnered with Littletree, selling their apples and donuts at theater performances. You might even get to Littletree as part of a class: Food and Society, a course offered through the School of Humanities and Sciences, visits the orchard so students can observe a local food system firsthand.
Being surrounded by the orchard her whole life, Hine has learned a lot about the value of local businesses. After snacking on freshly picked apples all day, biting into one found in your conventional grocery store leaves something to be desired. It’s a great environment to be a part of too, she says. “We’re like a family. It’s an easy working day, and there are always a lot of laughs.”
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