On a recent agritourism tour in Marietta, Ohio, we were invited to visit the local Hidden Hills Orchard. Living near several apple and peach orchards here in Michigan, I was interesting to see how things were done in southern Ohio. I was impressed by what I saw.
Originally farm land dating back to the 1890s, orchard planting began in 1998. Current owners, Tom and Cathy, bought the orchard in 2011 and have been improving and expanding ever since. With over 6 acres of apples plus cherry and peach trees, Hidden Hills has much to offer during the summer and fall harvest seasons.
Hidden Hills grows around 20 varieties of apples. They use dwarf trees which have the benefit of keeping nice neat rows, which makes trimming and picking much easier than traditional trees. No ladders needed for you-pick customers and even kids can walk right up and pluck some delicious apples. 80 cherry trees and 150 peach trees round out the orchard.
Hidden Hills aims to be a sustainable as possible. Tom took us for a tour and explained how they use organic methods of controlling pests and only use chemicals at a minimum when absolutely needed. Drip irrigation is set up for all trees to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact even more. Solar energy contributes to the orchard’s energy needs. Some acreage is set aside with plantings to attract local pollinators and they have not had to bring in bee hives.
In addition to fruit picking, fresh apple cider is pressed right on site. Sadly, the first pressing was to take place the weekend after our visit. I always love comparing all of our local orchard ciders and this would have been a treat. I did buy a bag of Ruby Jons for making apple sauce at home. The orchard also sends out fruit to be made into apple butter and applesauce at a processing facility. Hidden Hills apples are mostly sold from the orchard, though they do supply some to local stores and colleges.
For more information on Hidden Hills Orchard visit their website at http://www.hiddenhillsorchard.com/