Carter Mountain Orchard, next door to Monticello, has been a working commercial orchard for more than 100 years. Owner Cynthia Chiles talks to Virginia Voice’s Lou Dean about the apple varieties the orchard produces and the full experience visitors can expect, from apple picking to special events to school field trips to geocaching adventures. And who can forget the hot apple cider donuts? Listen to the full interview with Lou Dean (27 minutes).
Here are the highlights:
Carter Mountain Orchard grows about 15 different apple varieties, as well as peaches.
First apples come in during July, and are picked all through November. (Check out our apple availability chart!) Apple varieties include Ginger Gold, Gala, Golden and Red Delicious, Rome, and Albemarle Pippin.
To extend the season at Carter Mountain, the Orchard has planted peaches, which are available as both pick-your-own and ready-picked. Carter Mountain’s sister farm, Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, grows mainly peaches, but there visitors can also find pick-your-own strawberries, pumpkins and some apples, in season.
If you only want apples, go to the grocery store.
In fact, Carter Mountain sells apples to the grocery store. But if you’re looking for the full experience and to spend time outside, come to Carter Mountain! “I love to see a light bulb go off in a child’s head when they connect the apple from the grocery store to the apple they picked from the tree and hold in their hand,” says Cynthia.
The “Buy fresh, Buy local” effort has been good for Carter Mountain’s business and has brought many families to Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Families can make a day or weekend trip out of a visit to the Orchard by including a trip to Monticello, local wineries and breweries, or Shenandoah Park.
There’s a lot of history on Carter Mountain.
The farm is part of a 10,000-acre land grant to the Carter Family from House of Burgesses and referred to often by Thomas Jefferson in his writings. Carter Mountain has been a commercial orchard for over a century!
“We’re just trying to use the land we’re blessed with the best we can,” says Cynthia. “It started with my mom sitting up here and selling a few apples. We added a bakery and made apple cider donuts. I think people come for the donuts more than the apples!”
The Orchard is kid-friendly.
Because it is such a family experience up here, the Orchard started talking to local schools. The schools wanted to show children where their food comes from and Carter Mountain wanted to help.
Cynthia recalls, “Now I’m going back 30 years—my mother would get up on the school bus and talk to the kids. Then we’d put them on a hay wagon, and we’d give them a bag to pick apples in the orchard. The last couple of years we’ve had about 10,000 children each fall, and these are some of our favorite days when the school buses are rolling in. Depending on each age level, they get an age-appropriate lesson. We talk about the economy and apple production.”
In addition to schools, Chiles Family Orchards works with Girl and Boy Scouts who are earning patches for their requirements and church groups that come for a youth activity.
Cider, Hard Cider, and Wine
Carter Mountain Orchard grows 5-6 different grape varietals and partners with Prince Michel winery to bottle Carter Mountain wine. The newest addition to the Mountain is a tasting room for Bold Rock Cider, which opened in June 2015. Carter Mountain even provides most of the apples for Bold Rock—we recommend trying their IPA, India Pressed Apple!