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Traditional farm, traditional apples

Events at 220-year-old farm celebrate heirloom apples

DUMMERSTON—Before Landmark Trust USA took over Scott Farm in 1995, the orchard produced solely Macintosh apples.

David Tansey, president and farm manager of Scott Farm, wanted to diversify as much as possible.

“The time when Macintoshes taste any good is about three days,” says Tansey. Macintoshes are made viable for supermarkets through a series of horrid methods to preserve their shelf life, measures that Tansey wanted to avoid.

He remembered the incredible variety of delicious heirloom apples he discovered in England, which he was finding difficult to obtain in America.

The historic 571-acre farm, which hosts its annual celebration of its fall heirloom apples this month, now grows 70 heirloom and unusual apple varieties, ranging widely in color, flavor, and texture. The farm also grows gooseberries, medlars, quince, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, pears, plums, and peaches.

Tansey said the celebration will provide an opportunity for everyone to learn and taste this year’s harvest of apples, most of which will also be on sale.

The Scott Farm, owned since 1995 by The Landmark Trust USA, has been in active cultivation since 1791 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Landmark also owns Naulakha, the Vermont home of Rudyard Kipling, which is a stone’s throw from Scott Farm.

Tansey hired apple orchard manager Ezekiel “Zeke” Goodband, who is well known in the apple community both for his knowledge of and passion for the fruit as well as his dedication to environmentally sensitive orchard management.

Goodband’s search for old varieties has taken him to abandoned orchards throughout New England and as far as Kazakhstan, the birthplace of apples.

A stressful year

Tansey admits that it has been a stressful year, if not decade, for growing apples.

This year, the early warm weather and a subsequent frost resulted in the lost of 40 percent of the apple crop, including the complete pick-your-own orchard, which is planted in a low-lying area and was particularly vulnerable.

“The weather changes have resulted in problems we didn’t expect when we started this enterprise almost 20 years ago,” he says.

“We face more intense rains than we ever have had, which wash out our roads to the orchards,” Tansey says. “One road which never had a problem in the past hundred years — and we have records on this — now have to be repaired every year.”

“As the weather seems to become increasingly intense, now we have to watch out, for instance, for the problem of hail,” he adds.

“Other people might not notice a small downfall, but for us it can be disastrous, leaving brown spots on apples which make them impossible to sell them as first quality,” Tansey says.

For Scott Farm, global climate change has meant adjustments.

“We are now attempting apricots to adjust to weather,” said Tansey. “And Zeke is reporting that some of our Southern varieties of apples are tasting better than ever.”

Apple events

This year’s apple festivities begin on Sunday, Oct. 7, when The Scott Farm will host its annual Apple Day, with heirloom apples — fresh, baked, and squeezed.

In the apple packing barn at 10 a.m, noon, or 2 p.m., the public will be welcomed for a free tasting and to listen to the history of some of 90 apple varieties with colorful names such as Esopus Spitzenburg and Ananas Reinette.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, Laurel Roberts Johnson, the former owner of the Queen of Tarts Old-Fashioned Bakery and former pastry chef at the award-winning Restaurant du Village, both in Chester, Conn., will present a heirloom apple pie workshop, with a side course: “Tackling Pie Dough Anxiety.”

Johnson, who studied baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America, is known for her seasonal pies, simple old-fashioned desserts and unique cookies.

Participants will learn how to prepare flaky pie dough and easily roll out pie crust, using the correct recipe and technique, with the heirloom apples from Scott Farm. The $40 price of this workshop includes the pie you bake, the dough you make, and a take-home tote of heirloom baking apples. Reservations are required.

On Sunday, Oct. 14, the Scott Farm and instructor Jason MacArthur will also host “An Introduction to Making Hard Cider,” a class in the apple packing barn.

This class will cover equipment, what you need to know about cider, and the steps to make it.

MacArthur lives in Marlboro, where he has been making hard cider since 1996. He recently completed an intensive short course on hard cider making at Cornell University and is in the process of starting a commercial hard cider operation. Basic cider-making equipment and fresh cider suitable for fermenting will be available for sale.

Finally, the Scott Farm and Vermont Fresh Network will co-host the fifth annual Farm Heirloom Apple Harvest Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m.

The five-course meal will showcase Scott Farm’s delicious heirloom apples along with many other local foods. Tristan Toleno of Entera Artisanal Catering will prepare the meal. Dinner is $35 per person, with a cash bar with beer and wine.

To reserve a spot for any of these events, call 802-254-6868.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #172 (Wednesday, October 3, 2012).

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