Lynn and Fred Kudish bought the orchard in 1977. This year, they leased the farm to Charles Beasley, although the couple is available for advice on how to manage the orchard and farm stand.
The pick-your-own season started recently. Rick Pieschle, a part-time worker at the orchard for 20 years, helps determine when different varieties of apples, nectarines, peaches and pears are at their prime. For some fruit it’s determined by color, for others it’s by feel.
“It’s a very delicate time frame,” Pieschle said.
On Friday, Pieschle was harvesting white nectarines at the top of the trees for sale in the farm stand and wholesale. Fruit lower down is for people coming to pick.
“Giving a great peach and pear and nectarine for people to pick, it’s very rewarding,” he said. “There’s nothing like a fresh-picked piece of fruit.”
Beasley introduced some new features, such as vegetables, and partners with local companies on the farm stand. Cheshire Baking Co. products, some made with Hickory Hill fruit by Kristin Raucci, are sold.
“She’s taking our peaches and making peach hand pies, peach cobbler and peach cupcakes,” Beasley said. “She’s got a great following. It’s a good thing for both of us.”
He’s also working with Big Dipper Ice Cream Factory in Prospect. The farm stand was always a major part of the orchard, but Beasley has added picnic tables and other amenities to make it a place that people will visit.
The lake was a popular feature for visitors and Fred Kudish tried to get town approval for outdoor events, such as weddings. The request was met with opposition by neighbors, who hired an attorney to fight the change. Fred Kudish withdrew the plan last year.
“People really fell in love with the heart-shaped lake here,” Beasley said.