VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Jeb Cullipher's family has worked on their Pungo, Virginia Beach farm for three generations — and they were farmers even before that, going all the way back to 1850.
But apple picking there is fairly new.
"Evercrisp, suncrisp, crimson crisp, ludacrisp, shizuka, ambrosia, Spitzenburg," he ticked off on his fingers. "Spitzenburg is a really good heritage cider variety that Thomas Jefferson grew."
Cullipher Farm Market is one of the only places in eastern Virginia where people can have a pick-your-own apple experience.
The trees are nine years old, but they take some time to bear fruit, so the orchard has only been open to visitors for four years.
This year, the apple farm offers 13 varieties to cover peak ripening times from early September through late October.
Jeb said they have a smaller footprint than some other nearby farms, and they put more work into each acre to make growing and harvesting apples possible. The work involves a lot of pruning.
"Apples are not the easiest thing to grow here. There's really nobody else growing them along the coast," he said. "Salt, humidity, the combination of the two, apples really don't like."
The effort makes all the difference to people like Shemsa Lopez and her 3-year-old daughter, Elena. Shemsa said she's been apple picking the whole time the orchard has been open to the public.
"It's becoming a tradition now," Lopez said. "We love coming to Cullipher Farm; if it's for strawberries, blueberries, it's our favorite. During the summer we were coming once, maybe twice a week."
They picked up some crimson crisp and ambrosia apples while they were at the farm, mostly for eating, but Lopez said they were also thinking about baking an apple pie.
If you like fall treats, but aren't much of a chef, there are seasonal treats available at the Cullipher Farm Market store.
Apple donuts, apple butter and ice cream top the list. Recently, they've also been turning fresh-pressed apple and grape juice (yes, from the farm) into slushies.
Jeb said he's helped out on the farm since he was in preschool, and he's used to grazing from the the different in-season produce. Apple picking allows him to find the ideal fruit.
"The best part about being able to walk through, you know, just going through and looking at all the different apples. The taste, the differences between different varieties and finding the one that's just perfect," he said. "I get down to the point where I want to get it right at that exact point of ripeness that I like, you know, not necessarily what's the most ripe, but exactly where I want it to be, that I think it tastes the best."
If you're headed to the farm for a fall day, there are a few other fun things for people to enjoy:
- You-pick grapes
- You-pick sunflowers
- (soon) You-pick pumpkins
- 9-acre corn maze
Jeb said the apples should be ripe through the end of October, unless people pick them all before then.
The farm does charge admission to the orchard on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Apples cost $2.99 per pound.