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Apple Pickin’

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Georgia may be mostly known for peanuts and fresh Georgia peaches, but don’t be fooled. Take a fall drive up Highway 52 – nicknamed Apple Alley for a reason – and you’ll see why the city of Ellijay devotes an entire festival to this all-American fruit.

In fact, in the early 1900s, it was apples that saved Ellijay from economic ruin when the cotton crop was destroyed by boll weevil insects. That’s the reason why the apple is a celebrated fruit in the area – even streets are named after apples there!

Today, the fact that Georgia is home to cheap, fresh apples is one of the state’s best kept secrets. Your trip to Georgia apple country will be well worth the drive, as you’ll find some of the freshest, juicy apples money can buy. You can’t get apples like this at the grocery store, where apples are often a year old.

Fall is known as apple season in North Georgia, and you can usually get your fill of the homegrown fruit anytime between August and December.

Plan your trip just right and be in Ellijay for the 46th annual Georgia Apple Festival, held this year on Oct. 14th-15th and Oct. 21st-22nd. More than 300 vendors will attend the festival.

For more information, click here.

 

How ‘Bout Them apples?

Yes, women farm, too!

Farming may not seem like a woman’s job, but don’t tell that to Janice Hale at the Hillcrest Orchards in Ellijay.

When her husband died suddenly, Janice knew she had to pick up the pieces and run their apple orchard. She did so, with two loving parents backing her.

Janice had other choices. In college, she studied accounting and now worked as a CPA during the off-season, but she knew didn’t want to give up the orchard, despite the fact it was becoming unprofitable. After all, the Hillcrest Orchard had been in her family since her dad had returned from World War II.

She knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but she had faith that she could save the business. “I decided to really go after the retail customers. We chose the ‘McDonald’s customers’ as our customer base – young families with children.”

The orchard has grown to add a myriad of agritourism activities for families such as an apple tree maze ( the first and only in Ga.), swimming pig races, milking a cow, live entertainment on the stage and so much more. And end the sentence with 20 varieties of apples.

Today, Janice’s current husband, Lynn, does most of the labor-intensive work. “He is a great help, and it’s so nice to have someone to talk to about day-to-day decisions,” Janice explains.

Also motivating the Hales are the 12,000 school children that visit their orchard each year. “I love children and truly enjoy teaching them about where their food really comes from,” Janice says happily.

Many people visit Hillcrest as a fall tradition and for festivals, school tours and the Apple Pickin’ Jubilee. As more and more children grow up in subdivisions, farms will become a novelty. “Hopefully, people will come to Hillcrest for that farm experience,” Janice says. Many already do.