It’s apple season and those shiny red delicious apples in the stores remind me of the beautiful apple the wicked queen gave to Snow White. It’s been many years (at least 30) since I have eaten an apple out of the grocery store —-or almost any fruit for that matter. It’s a shame that some of the most delicious food on earth is covered or saturated with poisons by the time they are available to the masses through the grocery stores.
Golden Acres Orchard – A Good Source for Apples
Fortunately, I know of a good source for great apples —Golden Acres Orchard. Their Winesaps and Yorks are our favorites, although they offer Red Delicious and Golden Delicious as well. In addition they have great Apple Juice and Vinegar. (I’ve seen and purchased the Apple Juice at Good Foods Grocery in Richmond. It’s the best!)
It’s been so many years ago, I can’t remember how I heard about Golden Acres Orchard in Front Royal, Virginia. The orchard’s founder was A.P. Thomson who died in 1986. Mrs. Thomson and her son, John, now run the Orchard and “strive to keep A.P.’s spirit alive” by the way they care for their apples.
What are these biologically grown apples?
An important part of their story is told in most of their yearly letters to customers, so I’ll quote:
Mr. Thomson (1910-1986) “—-sought a better way to raise apples through soil fertility and understanding the interconnections of nature. He believed people should not harm themselves or the environment in the process of growing food, and that we should constantly strive to minimize our disturbance of the ecosystem. He avoided commonly used fruit-dip preservative chemicals which cannot be washed-off. ”
He “built the soil with cover crops, propagated earthworms, applied a variety of mineral powders, composted and applied liquid seaweed, a practice that is still an annual tradition —.”
Here’s another example of A.P. Thomson’s committment to avoid harmful conventional methods:
“—50 to 60 years ago, it was common for the now-banned Endrin to be sprayed on orchard floors to kill mice. The chemical was absorbed through their feet. (And it follows, that it was absorbed by the trees.) As an alternative, A.P. hand-baited with biodegradable bait, used rock mulch around the base of the trees, and mowed under every tree with a push-lawnmower to discourage mouse habitat.”
Tiny orchard’s struggle to survive
As a tiny orchard, they struggle to survive and face many seemingly insurmountable challenges. Even getting dependable help to harvest and pack is difficult and this year Mrs. Thomson packed all the orders for shipment herself with only one helper.
I’ve never met Mrs. Thomson or John in person; only talked to Mrs. Thomson on the phone numerous times. She a lovely lady with old fashion values ———so we have a lot in common. I consider her a friend.
No website — just 64 years in business.
You won’t find a website for these folks. An online search might produce their orchard name and address and that’s about it. They’re tiny, but they’ve been in business 64 years! Just everyday folks trying to make an honest living by carrying on the tradition of the one who started it all back in the 1945 – A.P. Thomson.
They’re folks and apples you can feel good about.
Golden Acres Orchard
2608 Ashby Station Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
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I have never heard of this orchard but am so happy to know about it. It’s only about an hour from us. Do they deliver your apples? That’s a long way.
They will UPS ship, Beppy, but they do not deliver. I think they’re just too small an operation for that. Or you can pick them up at the orchard either tray-packed or loose-packed for a $17 to $22 savings. Or for apple sauce etc. you can get #2 grade apples a bushel for about half the price of the regular apples.
Also, be sure and get Apple Juice (gallon jugs) if its available when and if you go. It’s the best!
If you call them and get their machine, leave a message. It will probably be Mrs. Thomson who calls you back.
I just printed out my post and am sending it to her via mail today so she will know what I have written. (I feel pretty sure that she is not into computers, so may never see it online.)
Let me know the rest of the story. I know you’ll be pleased with the apples.
I used to visit Mr Thomson back in 1970-1971 when our daughter was a baby and I wanted organic apples for her. We lived in Fairfax VA at the time. I corresponded with Mr Thomson for many years about farming and gardening. I recall he told me he would rise daily around 4 am to write. He was a true believer in what he was doing. I wrote an essay about the orchard and won a small scholarship to take agriculture and botany classes at U MD.
He was a wonderful, kind and giving person. The apples and juice and vinegar were wonderful and very, very special back then-to have that quality-almost unheard of. There was a person who tended the honeybees for him but I can’t recall his name. The orchard was a dream to walk in-so alive!
Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Mr. Thomson here on TendingMyGarden. Your comments add so much to the post because it lets folks know from someone who knew him what kind of person he was.
I will share your comments with Mrs. Thomson via mail, as I don’t think she goes online. What you said will mean a lot to her.
Thanks again for taking time to comment and share.
I know Golden Acres well! Back in the 1970’s I was one of many apple pickers that lived in an old church, eat, worked, played music together (lots of fun times!) A very, very special place!! Beautiful place! I and many of the others at this time had picked apples in numerous places in New England with a apple picking community “GreenLeaf. Golden Acres was a organic orchard! The New England orchards were not, we would be up in the trees picking and planes flew over us spraying. What a delight to go to Golden Acres!! I remember the incredible spiders and webs. Golden Acres was a life changing experience for me. I am sooo thrilled that it still runs and all of you can enjoy these apples from a magical place!
Thank you Kate for this wonderful comment! Truly we are so blessed to still have this Orchard intack.
Aw, man! I got so excited– but I just called both Good Foods locations, and neither carry it now. 🙁 They are about an hour away from me, but closer than Front Royal.
Any other idea of who might carry it in Richmond, or east of Richmond?
My guess is that it is so far past the apple season that Good Foods is out of A.P. Thomson apple juice. They probably will have it again after the apple season in the fall. (You’d have to talk to someone there who really knows.)
I don’t know who else carries it. You could call and ask Mrs. Thomson. You’ll probably get a recording, but if you leave a message she will more than likely call you back. I looked up the phone number on the internet and here’s the number I found: (540) 636-9611.
I don’t know where you are located, but you might also call Wegman’s in Fredericksburg and see if the have it.
Please check back in and let me know what you find out.
We found out about Golden Acres because we order food from Polyface Farms in Swoope, VA through their buying clubs. The lady in Richmond could find out if there is a drop-off point for Polyface near her and order the apple juice from them. It’s the best we’ve ever tasted, and we have stopped buying any other brand. There is an old interview with Mr. Thomson on the Mother Earth News website worth reading. He was really passionate about his orchard. I sure hope this stinkbug epidemic doesn’t devastate their crops.
It is so nice of you to provide this information. Thank you so much for taking the time to do so.
I did a search on the Mother Earth News website and found the article (I think) that you spoke of. And yes! It’s definitely worth reading. Invaluable information.
For those interested — here’s the URL address: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1981-01-01/The-Plowboy-Interview-A-P-Thomson.aspx
Bill and I — like you — drink only the apple juice from Golden Acres. It’s so superior to all the others.
Again, Debbie, thank you for your time and thoughtfulness in providing this information.
Thanks for the email about the posts here, Theresa. :). I’m in Williamsburg, and yes, Polyface delivers here. That’s actually where I’ve been getting it! I just feel ten bucks is an awfully high delivery charge for it. (They charge delivery by the pound.) I was hoping to find it elsewhere. (Which is actually how I found this blog!) I suppose that until I do, it will just have to be worth the extra $10. (It *is* the best!!)
I did call them, and a gentleman returned the call about two weeks later, letting me know that no one in my area was carrying it. 🙁
Thanks for all the info, though!
Glad you’ve been able to get the apple juice. You might want to give Good Foods a call in the fall. They’ll probably have it again. I don’t know if the trip to Good Foods will be cheaper than the $10 shipping or not. 🙁 One advantage — you could really stock up for fall and winter.
Thanks for letting me know “the rest of the story.” 🙂
Oh, yeah. I’m up in Richmond for other things periodically, and I can just tag that stop on to the day. Plus, I can buy multiples, without additional “delivery” (They charge $10 delivery on *each* case of four -or $2.50 each jug- not just per delivery; which isn’t shipped to your door; I still have to go pick it up across town.) So, yes, I’m crossing my fingers that Good Foods gets it back in stock, come fall. Thanks again for all the info!
I notified Good Foods about the apple juice. They had dropped it. (I can’t imagine why!) But they are picking it back up and will let me know once it’s in inventory again.
I’ll let you know when I hear from them.
I hope its not to late to post a few words about Golden Acres. My father knew Mr. Thomson back in WW 2 when I understand they worked at the Department of the Navy in Washington, DC. After the war, goes our family folklore, whether by inheritance or not, he took the farm over and started over from near scratch. My dad took us kids there every autumn during our childhood as a Saturday trip. We would always get a case or 2 of apples and some jugs of juice.
I have a question, would it still be possible for a trip there this fall?
Apple season is coming up and I am expecting an order form from Golden Acres any day now.
I feel sure Mrs. Thomson and her son have people pick up apples and juice right there at the farm.
Give them a call. You’ll probably get a recording, but if you leave a message she will more than likely call you back. I looked up the phone number on the internet and here’s the number I found: (540) 636-9611.
Let me know what happens.
Thanks for commenting.
Greg, I sure hope you contacted them, and made the visit! I got there, myself, last fall. They were all so sweet & kind. Marvelous visit! Took four cases of juice, and some apples, home with me. I look forward to going again.
I enjoyed reading about Golden Acres.
I have known John Thompson for a number of years and have enjoyed picking Bluegrass and Old Time music with him. He is a WORLD CLASS 5-string banjo picker. I knew that John is an orchardist, but since his orchard is in Northern VA and we live near Staunton, had never visited until this week.
Meanwhile, our daughter Debbie has on several occasions told us about this wonderful organic orchard near Front Royal where she and her husband and kids love to visit. We had sampled the juice at her house in Maryland, but we had never connected the dots until now…. BINGO, Golden Acres is where John Thompson and his Mom do their magic and it is where Debbie goes with her family. I asked John if he remembers Debbie. He was not sure until I told him that our Grandchildren loved to catch crickets around the packing shed and feed them to his chickens. Then he remembered.
Bottom line, we bought a bushel of Old Time Winesaps and a jug of juice. The Winesaps make THE BEST apple sauce and crockpot apple butter anywhere on earth. The apple sauce is a lovely ruby-pink color and has a winey flavor that really lights up your taste buds. The apple butter? Well all of our 10 grandchildren think Grandma’s apple butter is simply the best, especially on Grandma’s biscuits or corn bread. 🙂