Pick your own organic apples — for free

There’s no ignoring apple season around here. Taligate markets are positively loaded with them and restaurant menus burst with the fruit (thanks in part to ASAP’s Get Local initiative). The North Carolina Apple Festival will be held this weekend in Hendersonville; Waynesville holds its apple festival in October for the fall harvest season. And on Saturday, Sept. 10, Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community is holding its fourth such festival.

Once a year, Jane Lawson and John Myers, the owners and founders of the community, invite the public to come pick apples — for free — and celebrate the bounty of their “found” orchard in the forest.

How can an orchard be “found”? In 2004, Lawson and Myers purchased the forested 270-acre property that is now the site of their intentional community. Now, it’s dotted with solar paneled homes, organic gardens and fruit trees. But the property wasn’t always so tame. Lawson and Myers enlisted the help of friends and volunteers to help clear the massively overgrown land, and in the process discovered over 100 apple trees hidden among the overgrowth, still fruiting with such varieties as red delicious, Stamen and Turley Winesap, Lodi and white Russian. They have since diversified the orchard to include other fruit trees such as cherries, plums and pears.

“With the bears, bees and other creatures getting their fill of apples, we wanted to share the abundance with our human friends too,” says Lawson. “I could only make so many pies, so we created a community-building festival.”
This year, the community hosts its Fourth Annual Apple Fest on Saturday, Sept 10. The old-time, family-friendly event offers kids’ activities, cider making, a pie contest, music and some ladders and apple pickers for harvesting (though people are being asked to provide their own containers).

And what isn’t harvested will certainly find a home; Myers reports that a group known as the Gleaners gather the remaining apples and take them to the food banks. Some of the “less appealing” apples are fed to horses and other animals. The Hickory Nut Forest Apple Fest is free — even the apples — and family-friendly. The event takes place from 1 until 5 p.m. on Rt. 74-A in Gerton/Bat Cave, N.C. Entering the pie contest? Pie entries must be present by 1:30 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to the winners (judges are still needed for the contest).

For more information, visit the Hickory Nut Forest website.

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