PERU - Driving down the straight, narrow country roads in the town of Peru, the farmland seems to stretch on forever. Rows of corn along the roadway gradually give way to seemingly endless rows of small, twisted trees, their branches heavy with red and green fruit. This is northern New York apple country.
Rulfs Orchard is just one of at least five apple orchards in the town of Peru. The family-owned farm supplies grocery stores from Watertown to Saratoga with apples, mostly of the McIntosh variety.
"If you want that nice, crisp, tart apple, now's the time," said Linda Facteau, retail and produce manager at Rulfs Orchard.
These bags of apples are ready to be sold.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Heather Sackett)
In 1952, Bob Rulfs purchased a small farm that came with 12 acres of apple trees. What began as selling apples out of a wagon on the front lawn of his house has turned into a large-scale apple-producing operation. Rulfs is not only famous for their apples, but for the apple pies, apple cider, apple bread, and apple jellies, jams and preserves that are made on site.
Recent sunny days and cold nights have quickly ripened the apples, bringing out their red color, Facteau explained. Although McIntosh apples are a fall favorite and the quintessential North Country apple, other varieties have been gaining in popularity over the past few years.
"Honeycrisp and Gala," Facteau said, "everybody wants them."
Just behind Rulfs' roadside stand, there are now 55 acres of apple trees. A team of 12 Jamaican workers hand-pick the apples with a twist of the wrist and deposit them into front-loaded pack baskets that are strapped to their shoulders. When full, they can weigh up to 40 lbs. These baskets are dumped into large wooden crates, which are picked up with farm equipment and brought back to the packing house. Here they are sorted into smaller bags to be sold at the farmstand and local grocery stores.
Now is prime apple picking time for Rulfs. When the fruit is ripe, it begins to fall off the trees, so picking it now is important. The Mac season will be over by the middle of October, Facteau said.
Visitors can also wander the many rows of trees to pick their own apples.
"It's the most fun thing about fall in the North Country," Facteau said. "What fun to go into an orchard. Sometimes the simple things in life make it so wonderful."
Contact Heather Sackett at the Lake Placid News at (518) 523-4401 or email@example.com.