CHESTER — A longstanding family orchard was in the spotlight as the start of apple season got a big boost.
Gov. Chris Sununu paid a recent visit to Hazelton Orchards off Harantis Lake Road to help honor the beginning of the Granite State’s apple season and do the ceremonial “first pick” of the season.
The governor was welcomed at the top of the grassy orchard property by orchard managers Kitt and Catharine Hazelton Plummer, along with other family members representing multiple generations of the Hazelton family.
Sununu also read a proclamation calling Sept. 5 the official New Hampshire Apple Day.
Hazelton Orchards and its apple and peach trees make up about 10 acres and date back to the late 1800s.
“This is a gorgeous location,” said Shawn Jasper, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, who accompanied Sununu for the event.
Jasper added that fall is definitely in the air and that means it’s a big time for the state’s agriculture and tourism opportunities.
With about 200 farms dotting the Granite State landscape growing apples and many offering the “pick-your-own” option, Jasper said it’s what New Hampshire is all about.
“The pick-your-own options in New Hampshire are incredible,” Jasper said. “This is your opportunity to taste the freshest fruits and vegetables while supporting local farms.”
Sununu noted that the state’s fall season is destined to be a good one.
“(Farms) produce about 20 million pounds of apples, with $12 million annually coming into New Hampshire’s economy,” the governor said.
Sununu not only talked apples, but touted the state’s fall forecast of tourism, projecting that more than 3 million out-of-state, overnight visitors will pay New Hampshire a visit and spend more than $1.5 billion.
“It’s the ceremonial first apple, but really an opportunity to reach out to people and remind them why this stuff is so special,” Sununu said.
Kitt Plummer said the Hazelton Orchards don’t have fancy entertainment, but the rows and rows of apples and peaches is all people need to enjoy a great day this fall.
“Our entertainment is picking apples and walking around the orchard,” he said.
Plummer noted the orchard still has some of its original trees dating back about 150 years.
Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said the fall season at orchards like Hazelton’s is an incredible economic driver for the state, part of a big list of destinations around the state for visitors to enjoy, from seacoast to mountains to farms and foliage.
“New Hampshire is the premier travel destination in the northeast all year round, but the vibrant colors of our tremendous foliage truly sets us apart during the fall travel season,” Caswell said.
The day was also the official launch of the fall tourism season, Caswell said, adding there are seven weekends between Labor Day and Columbus Day when the state may see its biggest crowds.
“There are plenty of opportunities in the next seven weekends,” he said.
When it was time for the governor to make his first pick, he was led a bit further through the sprawling orchard rows to discover the Zestar! apple variety.
“And I always try to pick one I’ve never had before,” Sununu said.
While munching on his apple, the governor then strolled back to greet more of the extended Hazelton family.
The state’s tourism opportunities, including a foliage tracker, list of farms, orchards, festivals, trails and other fall season adventures can be found at visitnh.gov.