Partner Spotlight : Apple Picking at Blue Sky Orchards
Last updated: March 30, 2023
The end of summer stings a little less knowing that the new season brings a bounty of fresh fruit ready to be picked. From warming your kitchen with an apple pie during the cool autumn months to sipping on hot apple cider during a seasonal festival — nothing says fall quite like this delicious fruit! And luckily, Mercer County is home to an incredible apple picking spot – Blue Sky Orchards.
This family-owned and operated farm was bought in May of 2019 by the McDuffee family.
After graduating from Physician Assistant school in Philippi, West Virginia, Bruce McDuffee’s son moved back to the family’s home state of Colorado. But the rolling hills of West Virginia always stayed on his mind.
“My son was looking to move back to the state and that’s when he found the farm in Mercer County, ” Bruce McDuffee said. “He asked my wife and me if we wanted to buy it and see how business goes.”
The family opened the farm for the Mercer County community in 2020. The four owners have since started to focus more on expanding the agritourism business.
Blue Sky Orchards is the perfect place for a fall frolic with the entire family. Now through the first of November, different apple varieties are available to pick at the orchard.
“The Honeycrisp has an earlier season, so that variety is done for the year,” McDuffee said. “Next we’ll have the Jonagold, then Golden Delicious and a little bit of Pink Ladies.”
Apple picking is actually quite easy. The trick to apple picking is to not pull the fruits straight off the tree. Instead, roll the apple upwards toward the branch and give it a little twist so that it pops off smoothly. If the apple doesn’t come off effortlessly, it is not ripe enough.
To prevent bruising, gently place your picked apples into boxes and containers provided by the orchard. Then, finally, you can enjoy the fruit of your labor!
It’s also a great outdoor activity for all ages.
“We have a play area for children on the farm,” McDuffee said. “Our location is also very beautiful so people enjoy coming out and not only picking fruit but being able to be in such a pretty area for the day.”
Although a scenic place, the orchard is still part of the great outdoors. So, be ready for the typical farm environment including uneven ground, a few spots of poison ivy and some thorns, especially around the blackberries.
Apple picking hours are from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday mornings. Once the new varieties are available, look to see the orchard open at least two days a week.
Additionally, Blue Sky Orchards has a pumpkin patch that will be open in October. The owners also have big future plans for the orchard.
“We’re hoping to expand the offering over the next couple of years,” McDuffee said. “We have three nice ponds on the property that are stocked so we want to add fishing next year, as well.”
Other ideas include expanding their current apple varieties and pumpkin patches, as well as planting a wildflower garden.
“Mostly, we want our farm to be a place for folks to go and have something to do while at the same time getting some nice fresh fruit,” McDuffee said.
Updates to apple picking hours and available varieties can be found on the Blue Sky Orchards Facebook page.