It’s the month of June and here in Virginia it is prime time for cherry picking. It is our first time going cherry picking and from internet search, we chose Spring Valley Orchard in Afton, VA. It is roughly a 3 1/2 hour drive from Virginia Beach, VA. This orchard is owned by the same family that owns Carter Mountain Orchard, which we visited last Fall, and Chiles Peach Orchard.
Spring Valley Orchard
We could not have picked a more beautiful, perfect day to travel up north to start the month of June. Despite the sun’s constant glare, we didn’t even need to turn on the A/C in the car during the drive nor did we sweat while working to pick the darkest cherries available to satiate our craving for sweet, delicious, crunchy cherries. We went Sunday, June 1. The weather was low 70s and breezy. The orchard opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. on Sundays. We got there at 10 a.m. and left about an hour later. There were plenty of cherries ready for picking. We didn’t need to stay too long to fill our bags. The trees were low and both of my kids had an easy time accessing cherries to get their fill.
There were no assigned parking, so we parked on the grass to the side of one of the fruit trees, as did everyone else. It’s a pick a spot and park kind of deal. We were given white plastic shopping bags to collect the cherries. These bags were later weighed and the cherries paid for. The staff ask that visitor do not eat the cherries before they have been paid for. There’s also a wash basin to wash up.
What I liked about this orchard was that there were no insects or birds roaming around eating the cherries. I thought it peculiar at first but all the better. We also didn’t have to walk far to get to the cherry trees. What I didn’t like is that the dirt road was tight for two-way car drive, there were only portable restrooms, and no picnic tables to sit and enjoy the cherries or have a picnic. It’s technically an honor system with this orchard. You pick, pay, and leave. Cherries are available for picking late May and thru the month of June.
Chiles Peach Orchard
On the same day, unplanned, we drove to Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, VA. It’s a 30 minute drive from Spring Valley Orchard. The peaches were not yet in season for picking, but we took this chance to pick strawberries and rest before driving back home. There are designated parking but it’s limited. We ended up parking on the side of the road. This place has a full functioning restroom and an ice cream parlor. The store also offers and sells other product, such as prepackaged donuts, pies, drinks, jams, wine, among other things.
At the time we went, there was also a Birthday party going on. Because it is June and almost out of season, the strawberries were sparse and small, but we were informed before going to the strawberry patch, which I appreciated. We still managed to pick some strawberries, and they were sweet and delicious. We had to cross the same road we drove on to get to the strawberry patch though. We had a picnic at the picnic area under the shade of the peach trees and rested before traveling back home.
Carter Mountain Orchard
Early November of last year, 2013, among the vibrant Autumn hues of red, orange, yellow, we drove 3 hours to Carter Mountain in Charlottesville, VA. We wanted to experience apple picking. The orchard was majestic in view, to say the least, being high up in the mountains with the view of the whole orchard. We took lots of pictures that day and hung around for a bit in the area, did a $5 wine tasting, and had a picnic. This place was busy and it made for a more festive mood. We bought and drunk hot apple cider to warm ourselves before picking apples.
Depending on what time of the year, only certain type of apples are available. Each variety of apple tree had their own area. We chose Fuji. We were given plastic bags to fill and had to walk up hill to get to the Fuji apple trees. It’s a doable walk, especially since it is the colder months. The trees were low enough for my kids to access fruits and pick their fill.
There are also freshly picked apples for sale for convenience. The store at this place is the biggest of the three and offered so much more different products for purchase. There were no assigned, paved parking, but there were workers that helped visitors park and bring some order to the constant flow of visitors. This orchard is my favorite of the 3 orchards mentioned above because it has full working restroom, picnic areas, food and drinks to buy, as well as wine tasting. There was even a hay ride, which we paid and rode to get a tour of the orchard.
Fruit fresh off the tree is so deliciously different from the ones sold at stores. It taste so much sweeter and crunchier. Overall, all three fruit picking experience were great experience. I would have liked the places to be closer, but I can’t complain. They are all beautiful places to visit in their own right. It’s well worth the drive for a first time trip. Now, I’m looking forward to picking peaches in North Carolina and Asian pears up north this summer.