Ripe with flavor and fun

For those visiting Baugher's Orchard & Farm, picking their own fruit is peachy keen

Summer Scenes

August 27, 2006|By David P. Greisman | David P. Greisman,Sun Reporter

On a bright weekday morning, Taylor Williamson rode a tractor-pulled wagon up a winding dirt road to the hills of Baugher's Orchard & Farm, where she walked from tree to tree, pulling peaches from the branches with her cousins and aunt.

With two bushels and half a peck of peaches between them, Taylor, 12, of Baltimore, and her family loaded their cardboard cartons for the wagon ride back to the market, joining several people who also shuttled uphill for an abundant selection of Loring and Crest Haven peaches, two of the farm's four varieties of the summer fruit.

"It's the freshest that you can ever get peaches - when you pick them off the tree," said Robert Lee Montgomery, 64, of Mayberry, who has operated the tractor for six years.

By allowing customers to pick their own fresh produce at no additional cost, Baugher's Orchard & Farm has established itself as a destination for fruit lovers and curious tourists, simultaneously creating a steady business that contributes to about 15 percent of the farm's revenue.

"It's a new experience," said Allan Baugher, a member of the family that owns and runs the eponymous Carroll County farm, market and restaurant locations. "People want the experience and the ride to the field to enjoy the country feeling."

But for the customers, Baugher said shopping for the product is just as important as the atmosphere.

"It's a matter of choosing the peaches you want, the ripeness you like and possibly tasting the peaches ... while you're in the field," Baugher said.

For Patricia Hill, it was necessary to sample the peaches before she rounded up enough fruit to fill two half-bushel cartons.

"I wanted to see how ripe it was on the tree," said Hill, 62, of Baltimore, a first-time visitor to the orchard. "They were good. ... [But] they need to build up a little more sugar in them."

Fun, education

To Amanda Milchling, though, the produce tastes even better when it is the fruit of her labor. "It's just fun to pick your own, and you enjoy it that much more when you eat them," said Milch- ling, 16, of White Marsh, who had recently picked fruit in Delaware while on a trip to Ocean City with her family.

While some families visit Baugher's for the fruit, the motivation for others is a day out with the children that can be fun and educational.

"It gives the people some kind of activities to get out of the house, come on the farm and see how things are done," Montgomery said. "It shows the people in the city where the fruit grows instead of the store, [and] it makes me happy when I can help people out and talk about the fruit."

Taylor came to Baugher's with her aunt, Loraine Wilson, who said she wanted Taylor, along with Wilson's sons, Raimone and Byron, to gain an appreciation of farmers.

Alexandra Clark also brought her family - her mother, Donna Clark, 2-year-old twins Nathaniel and Isabelle Erb, and 4-month-old son Gabriel Erb, to the orchard. Their trip had been planned since last fall, when they picked their own pumpkins at the farm.

"We've been wanting to do this all summer," said Alexandra Clark, 33, of New Windsor. "It's such a good thing for the kids. It's something that they can do themselves, [and] they can be outside."

With the half-bushel picked mostly by Nathaniel and Isabelle, their mother said she would eat some, give some to her parents and use the rest to make peach cobbler and baby food for Gabriel.

Many of the customers already had plans for the hand-picked fruit. They were planning on baking cakes and making smoothies.

Others, however, picked the peaches to can them.

"In years past, I've canned them," said Marilee Shiner, 27, of Owings Mills. "I can them in the winter when I miss fruit, [but] I'll probably make jelly this year."

For Hill, though, some of the bushel of peaches she picked will go be used for breakfasts, desserts and cocktails.

"Usually we eat them with cereal or just by themselves," she said. "I'm going to make peach cake, and my husband and I love peach daiquiris.

"Peaches aren't in season that long," Hill said. "You eat as many as you can."

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