With the leaves beginning to turn and the weather starting to chill, the ICO partnered with St. Peter's to take a van-load of kids apple picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA. Eleven participants were joined by Lucas and Addy, along with 3 ICO members (Ben, Maria, and Jeff).
After Jeff and Ben warmed up sufficiently by kicking a soccer ball and shooting some hoops with the kids, the kids hopped in the van and we took off. The 45 minute drive through changing leaves was the perfect prelude to our apple picking adventure.
If you've been to Honey Pot Hill Orchards, you'll know how impressive the acres upon acres of verdant trees, farm animals, and hedge mazes can be to a first-timer (like me). The kids were all very excited to be able to fill their bags with the fruits of the orchard.
So that the kids wouldn't immediately fill their bags and have to haul around pounds of apples the rest of the day, we started our apple picking with some animal petting. The kids loved feeding goats using a complicated pulley contraption, poking at fat chickens and quickly withdrawing fingers, and staring at porky pigs sleeping in mud. A few of the kids said that the farm animals reminded them of the animals they or their families kept back in Cape Verde.
Our spirited leader, Ben, gave the kids compasses and asked them to navigate to a certain portion of the orchard he indicated on the map. Unfortunately, we leaders weren't very good at directions ourselves, and we ended up in a roped-off part of the orchard.
Once we'd re-oriented, the kids had a blast learning about the different types of apples the orchard grows, including McIntosh, Macoun, and Red Delicious. We helped them set up ladders so that they could pick from the tops of trees as well as the bottoms, and they had proper picking technique (twist 'n' pull) down quickly.
We gave the kids the task of finding the biggest and smallest apples in the orchard, and they spent a lot of time trying to beat each others' selections. Many, many apples were consumed in the process, and we even saw a hawk!
When the bags were filled, we sat down for a lunch of sandwiches and snacks by a small pond on the orchard's property. The weather was rather chilly, so we took the kids on a hayride around the orchard, bundled up with Ben's blankets and hats.
We did a closing circle near the orchard's pear trees, and the kids were excited to finally compare their apples. A giant green apple - a Mustu - took the prize for the largest, and the contest winner took home a brand new Sierra Club backpack (thanks to Ben). The kids said that they really enjoyed the trip, and one girl reported that, "It was
my best day ever."
A link to view the photos can be found here: