In the News - How Do You Like Them Apples?
Carter Mountain Orchard offers a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of daily University life.
By Lindsey Wagner; Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
October 3, 2006
Fifteen minutes and 1,120 feet separate the University from a place where life moves slower -- Carter Mountain Orchard.
Carter Mountain Orchard, known for its pick-your-own apples and famous for its apple cider donuts, has been owned and operated for 40 years by the Chiles family, according to manager Cynthia Chiles.
The orchard is home to between 15 and 20 different varieties of apples, which are differentiated by their flavor, color and the time they ripen, among other factors.
"All have very unique flavors," Chiles said. "The apples that [ripen] later in October are tart, crisp apples. They need the colder nights to get their flavor."
Fourth-year College student Andrea Nakazawa, who visited the orchard with the women's swim team, said she enjoyed the variety of apples.
"It's cool how they had different types in each section," Nakazawa said.
Chiles said she believes the popularity of the orchard stems from the decrease of small farms and the increase of people living in urban areas.
"It's a different experience," Chiles said. "A good part of our customer base is from ... urban areas, so this is a real novelty. Families see the value of bringing their children to see how their food is raised and where it comes from."
Second-year Engineering student Pat Mandeville said he decided to visit the orchard out of curiosity.
"I had never been apple picking before, so it was interesting because I didn't realize how many apples grew on one tree and how gnarled the trees were," Mandeville said.
Carter Mountain Orchard provides poles to assist in picking the apples from the tops of the tall trees.
"They give you a long pole to get the apples that are really high," second-year Engineering student Courtney Costello said. "It makes you feel accomplished."
Costello said her favorite part about the orchard is the apple cider donuts.
"The apple cider donuts are warm and delicious and freshly baked," Costello said.
In addition to apples and apple cider donuts, Carter Mountain Orchard also sells fresh-pressed apple cider, apple butter, fresh-baked apple pies, apple caramel cookies, candy and caramel apples.
"We sell pretty much everything that has apples in it," Chiles said.
Nakazawa pointed out that though grocery stores guarantee fresh produce, she can be sure of the products at Carter Mountain Orchard.
"You know [the apples] are fresh," Nakazawa said. "You just go when it's a random, fun thing to do."
Another perk Mandeville highlighted was the view from 1120 feet up.
"One of the best parts was the view was spectacular," Mandeville said. "You could see all of Charlottesville and beyond. From U.Va. the view [of the mountains] is great, but it's nice to get up on those mountains and look down."
Chiles said the altitude provides visitors with a view of 40 miles.
"Looking toward the east you can see out into Fluvanna into Buckingham," Chiles said. "On a really clear day, people claim to be able to pick out something in Richmond. To the west you can see Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge Mountains."
Chiles said she sees a lot of University students enjoying the orchard.
"This is a fairly inexpensive activity," Chiles said. "For Parents Weekend, it's a great place to truck Mom and Dad off to."
Mandeville said the inexpensive prices also attracted him to the orchard.
"One cool thing was everything was cheaper than everywhere else," Mandeville said, noting that she remembers donuts costing 75 cents and apples costing 79 cents each.
Chiles also emphasized the relaxation a trip up to Carter Mountain Orchard can provide.
"It's like getting away, even if it's just 15 minutes away" from the University, Chiles said. "Pick a few apples ... enjoy the view and escape for a bit."
Though the orchard is so close to Grounds, Mandeville said the atmosphere of the orchard was striking compared to that of the University.
"It was nice just to see different people," Mandeville said. "There were lots of little kids, not a bunch of people walking around in polos."
In addition to Carter Mountain Orchard and a few other local, non-public orchards, the Chiles family also owns Chiles Peach Orchard. Though many people believe the best peaches are grown in Georgia, Chiles said she prefers Virginia peaches.
Virginia peaches are "way better" than Georgia peaches, Chiles said. "We're in a good climate to grow peaches, but if I can't eat a Virginia peach, then I'll eat a Georgia or a South Carolina peach."
Carter Mountain Orchard is open to the public from July to Thanksgiving, but the work for the Chiles family is a full-time, year-round enterprise.
"The rest of the year we're doing things like [pruning the trees] in the winter and early spring," Chiles said. "If every bloom on the tree became an apple, all of them would only be a millimeter big."
All of the tedious pruning and picking is done by hand, not machines, a fact that Mandeville said surprised him.
"You imagine farms these days where machines do most of the work," Mandeville said. "On the hayride going through the apple orchards, we saw ...lots of people going through and picking the apples. It was a nice relief, when the world is so technologically driven, that there's still people that do things with their hands."
Not all of Carter Mountain Orchard's apples end up being picked by customers. The Chiles family also sells some of their apples to grocery store chain warehouses, where they can be shipped to stores in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Mandeville said picking apples in an orchard is a refreshing change from picking apples out in a grocery store.
"It adds a new flavor to the whole thing," Mandeville said. "It's not like you go to the grocery store and see which apples aren't bruised. [At the orchard], you're going and looking at different trees. Some apples are small, some are big and fat, and you look for the best apple. There's something really satisfying about picking an apple off a tree yourself."