Fall staple Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill has made the decision to end its pick-your-own apple season.
In a statement released on Facebook, the Orchard — which is about 20 miles outside of Charlotte — said that due to damage, vandalism and out-of-control children and adults, no one will be allowed in the orchard going forward, effectively ending the season early.
The Orchard was already looking at a short picking season due to losing 80% of crops during the deep freeze this past spring. But the decision was ultimately made to close early after crowds Saturday took advantage of the uncharacteristically fall-like weather – and abused the grounds.
“We’ve dealt with crowds in the past, but this was more than we could handle,” owner Matthew Gusmer told the Agenda on Monday.
According to Gusmer, the orchard was transformed from a quaint, family-friendly space into a damage-ridden mess by the end of the day due to children and adults climbing trees to reach higher apples and breaking branches in the process, climbing and destroying fenders of tractors and throwing rocks at the barn.
There were also, he said, dirty diapers littered throughout the grounds.
The damage isn’t all-consuming, though, and Windy Hill would “love” to reopen its orchard to the public.
Despite reports of the orchard being picked bare, Gusmer did say that there were more apples left than he’d originally expected – but that might change after the strong winds associated with Hurricane Irma, and the orchard is expecting to lose more.
After assessing the damage with walk-throughs Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Gusmer expects to draw a game plan over coffee later this week. It will likely come in the shape of PYO hours being limited to a Friday afternoon in order to keep crowds more controlled.
Until then, the rest of the orchard will operate as it normally does, and the Harvest Festival is still on the calendar.
The Harvest Festival will still happen, with its cider samples, hayrides and more, on the already agreed-upon date of October 21. Tickets are $8.
The farm stand – where you can get your hands on those apple cider donuts you’re always hearing about – will be open Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
The cider bar, home to the first commercially produced dry-hopped hard cider on the East Coast, cider flights (six samples for $12), t-shirts, jams, butters and more, will be open Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
For updates on the orchard’s PYO season, stay tuned on Facebook.
Update (9/13/2017): The orchard will be open for picking this Friday, September 15.
In a statement made on Facebook, Windy Hill said that doing so will enable them to “continue offering this Fall Family Tradition in a more controlled and sustainable manner” but ask visitors to treat it kindly.
Picking will begin at noon and end at 7:30 p.m. The Farm Stand and Cider Bar will be open for their regular hours.