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Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley’s Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander

Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley's Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander

Summer 2021 is definitely like no other! Recovering from the pandemic and the civil unrest across the World and the US feels more like an eerie Zombieland kind of a movie. With just a couple of scarce BLM protests in Beacon and Newburgh, racial justice didn't get much attention in the Hudson Valley. And while economic equality took a major hit this year, billionaires of the World benefited from the largest transfer of wealth (in one year) in the history of humankind. So yeah, there has never been a better time to celebrate something like Pride, Diversity, and Equality.

Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley’s Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander – Story and Photos by Maxwell Alexander, EIC, Hudson Valley Style Magazine

We love Marlboro for its rolling hills, wineries, and beautiful farms and farmhouses. In fact, we've spent almost an entire year right here in Marlboro, working on our Farmhouse Reinvented Project. And while Benmarl Winery is always on our list when visiting Marlboro, this particular weekend we decided to rather have a stroll and first visited Glori Wine Farm, then the Prospect Hill Orchards and Benmar Winery and Vineyard at the end, just like icing on a cake.

Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley's Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander
Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley's Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander

The Orchards experience was surprisingly amazeballs! It was about 200 degrees under the baking sun and my white cowboy hat and SPF 50+ sunscreen barely dealt with the overwhelming UV radiation, not until we got cooled off when we jumped into the hayrack ride and were magically transported to our cherry-picking location. Cherries were delicious and I probably ate like a pound of them. Dino hasn't been as courageous and probably ate just a couple of them (just for the show :). After all, the $25 fee for a 1 or 2 lb bag of cherries was totally worth it!

Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley's Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander
Pride Weekend Cherry Picking in Hudson Valley's Prospect Hill Orchards with Maxwell and Dino Alexander

Prospect Hill Orchards' website reveals that the land has been in the Clarke family for more than 200 years! Nathaniel Clarke moved from Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY to Milton, New York with his wife in 1817 and introduced the "Pick Your Own Cherry and Apple Orchards". Initially, the farm was a traditional 55-acre homestead with a kitchen garden, outdoor animals, and fruits and vegetables. There was a perfect climate and soil for fruit farming around Milton. Fruit trees and berries thrived on the rich gravelly loam soil that was protected by the high hills in the spring. In Hudson Valley, fruit farming was successful in large part because of the river. The early years saw the cultivation of small fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and currants. The fruits were picked in the morning and delivered to the Milton dock by mid-afternoon to be loaded onto the night boats sailing down the Hudson River to New York City by 1830. Tree fruits such as cherries, peaches, pears, and apples took over the region over time. As early as the 1930s, apple orchards were a renowned feature of the Hudson Valley. In many ways, a lot hasn't changed today. Hudson Valley's climate is still moderated by the river and the hills, our crops grow well because the soil is enriched, and local farms export some of their products to NYC.

Prospect Hill Orchards is still a family-run business. Currently, there are six and seven generations of Clarkes farming the land. A modern growing method is used today, as well as modern equipment. Brad and Steve are the principal growers they increase the efficiency of orchards by planting dwarf trees. The farm grows Golden Delicious, Macoun, Gala, and Honeycrisp as well as newer varieties like Fuji and Gala. Pamela, Clarke's daughter, returned to the farm and expanded its presence through the NYC Greenmarket market. Besides growing small fruits, she also develops new products to boost the company's market display.