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Farming Tourism at Red Apple Farm
Fourth generation farmer Al Rose owns and operates the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, a 70-acre family farm established in 1912. Al is involved in regional tourism, serving as Chair of Visit North Central Massachusetts and supporting initiatives such as agri-tourism and local breweries. He also sits on the boards of the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association, Heywood Healthcare, GVNA Healthcare, and the Mount Grace Land Trust.
Tell us about your background and about Red Apple Farm.
I’m blessed to live on one of the highest elevation orchards in New England in which both the house and main barn date back to the 1700’s. I have degrees from Boston and Cornell Universities; my Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics thesis is titled, “The Family Farm and Direct Marketing: Adapting to an Urbanizing Environment.” My wife Nancy and I are hopeful that one of our four kids will carry on the family tradition.
Through the early 80’s, Red Apple Farm was predominantly a wholesale apple farm operation, but it has evolved into a year-round and diversified retail direct-marketing farm operation. The farm store in Phillipston is open year-round and offers pick-your-own summer (blueberries, raspberries, and peaches) and fall crops with over 50 varieties of apples. Farm favorites include our famous apple cider donuts, all-natural cider, homemade fudge, and honey-roasted peanut butter.
Farm outings include hayrides, friendly farm animals and sizzling BBQ. Our post & beam BBQ pit fires up in summer and fall weekends with pulled pork being our specialty! In 2018, in partnership and collaboration with our friend’s at Moon Hill Brewing, we opened up the Brew Barn for the summer and fall months, open Friday through Sunday. The Brew Barn features live music, hay rides, BBQ, fresh roasted nuts, 8-10 crafted beers and cider on tap, lawn games and plenty of family-friendly country fun!
Tell us about the Red Apple Farm stall at the Boston Public Market in Haymarket Square.
We are proud to be part of the year-round indoor Boston Public Market, a not-for profit with its own board and management structure in partnership with Trustees of Reservations. We make our mini-sized cider donuts on site and offer a great selection of farm favorites. Our cider bar features infused and seasonal hot and cold ciders, including our sought after cider slushies. We always have a full array of fudge to sample and we are glad when people stop by to say hi.
Boston is a world class city with a small town charm. It is an amazing opportunity for a small farm to be in the heart of the city. We bring the farm to city with hopes of also bringing the people of the city out to the farm. A cornerstone of the Boston Public Market is to ensure all products are produced or sourced locally. Anytime you can connect folks to local food and local business everyone involved and every aspect in the distribution chain becomes much healthier and stronger as result.
Our year-round presence at the market allows us to keep our on-farm store and production facilities operating year-round. Our dedicated staff is proud that we provide both iconic and heartfelt tastes for visitors and tourists from across the country and around the globe that represents our special New England heritage and are as American as apple pie! The market in the center of city allows us to bring the best of each season to folks living, working and visiting the city while helping to keep our family farm viable, sustainable and relevant.
How do culinary tourism, agri-tourism and craft beer startups help grow the local economy and benefit small businesses in North Central Massachusetts?
Agriculture in North Central Massachusetts is deeply rooted in our history, and plays an important part in shaping the future of North Central Massachusetts and helping to drive our economy. The region is home to an estimated 800 farms, which employ over 1,700 people. Employment has increased nearly 60% in the sector since 2001 and is projected to increase 11% by 2023. The region’s growing tourism industry is closely tied to the agricultural sector. Many of the farms in the region have evolved into major destinations.
In North Central Massachusetts, visitors can enjoy authentic experiences ranging from picking their own fruit to enjoying craft beer produced by one of our local breweries or farms. They can have a farm to table experience or buy their maple syrup, cheeses or produce to take home. Consumer interest in sustainability, authenticity, buying local and connecting back to our farming heritage has helped to empower our local economy and created opportunities for many small businesses. The region’s relative affordability, outstanding quality of life and pro-business environment make it a great place for small businesses to grow.
The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center is a popular family destinations each summer. What can visitors expect when they get there?
The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center is not your run of the mill rest stop! The center, located on Route 2 in Lancaster, serves as a gateway to the region and has evolved into a one of a kind destination that helps to welcome, engage and promote the area to visitors. The center features an impressive collection of unique items that help tell the story of North Central Massachusetts. These include a popular bronze sculpture of the young Johnny Appleseed that greets visitors outside the doors of center and 91 varieties of apple trees on its premises.
The Big Apple of New England, unveiled on July 10, is the newest attraction at the center. This giant red apple structure, which stands at 10 feet tall, is the largest apple sculpture of its kind in all of New England. The apple was installed outside the visitor center to honor the region’s strong agricultural heritage and connection to apples. We hope this apple serves as a beacon for travelers looking to explore the wonderful communities we call North Central Massachusetts for many years to come!
I would encourage a visitor to check out VisitNorthCentral.com to learn more about the region.