Rachel is a reporter/contributor for the AJT and graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. After post graduate work at Columbia University, she teaches writing at Georgia State and hosts/produces cable programming. She can currently be seen on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters.
Photo by Zyance, own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1775643
Rosh Hashanah requires an abundance of apples and honey, and Atlanta residents can go straight to the orchards in the North Georgia mountains to get the freshest fruit.
Here are some of the closest and most popular options.
B.J. Reece Orchards
Family-run B.J. Reece offers a pick-your-own orchard behind the market near the bakery on the property. A $2 fee Monday through Friday gains access to the orchard, where you can mix any of 15 apple varieties to fill pre-purchased bags. The Granny Smith and Ozark Gold are some of the more popular varieties.
The price rises to $5 on the weekends, when you also can milk a cow and watch pig races. Other weekend activities, including wagon rides, a petting farm, cow train rides, ziplines and apple cannons, can be purchased in a package.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m.; during apple-picking season, Aug. 26 to Oct. 29, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day
One of the few all-organic apple farms in Georgia, Stover Mountain is open only by appointment. What sets this farm apart is its policy against chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides. Stover Mountain relies on cover crops for the fertility of the apples. The Arkansas Blacks, Yates and Rambos are particularly popular.
Hours: By appointment
3709 Big Creek Road, Ellijay, 706-276-2512
Mercier stands out among the cideries in Blue Ridge for its variety and hand-pressed beverages. The September apple-picking options range from sweeter Ambrosia and Cameo apples to the rarer Smokehouse, ideal for cider with an earthy flavor. The property has a deli serving lunch and dinner and a store for the hard cider and wine grown, pressed, fermented and bottled on site.
Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; picking, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Jaemor offers apple picking on select days and is known for the many other activities for those passing through. Cooking classes, farm-to-table dinners, and date night on the farm are available. More than 1,000 apple trees produce 14 varieties, including the Mutsu and Red Rome if picking in September.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m.
Hillcrest offers a pick-your-own option during its Apple Pickin’ Jubilee festival weekends, when you also can watch the live bands, swimming pig races and cloggers. The festivals are held every weekend from Sept. 9 to Oct. 29, and admission is $12. Apple pickers will find everything from the popular Winesap apples to the less common Pinata variety, as well as the orchard’s other products. The bakery offers pastries such as apple cider doughnuts, and the farm market sells canned goods, honey and cider.
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; apple picking, Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Although Penland’s Apple House doesn’t offer a pick-your-own option, apples picked by the staff are made into various products. The apples also are for sale. Penland’s offers Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Mutsu and Rome Beauty varieties this time of year. The jams, jellies, butters and pastries are among the popular apple creations.