Minard’s Family Farm in Clintondale has long been known for its hayride out to the pick-your-own apple orchards. And that’s still an option at the farm, along with pick-your-own pumpkins and the barn market. But these days visitors are greeted as they arrive by “Mac” and “Tosh,” two colorful characters wearing bright red and green apple costumes.
The mascots signify the addition of kid-friendly activities to the farm that include a hay maze, the “Apple Express” ride, a schoolhouse, face painting, sand art and pumpkin painting and photo opps with Mac ‘n’ Tosh or “your-face-here” cut-outs on plywood.
“We’re a farm first,” says Jason Minard, the force behind all the new activities. “But we’re also about making this an agritainment destination. We have a good location — we’re the closest pick-your-own orchard off the Thruway — and so far it’s been going very well. People love it, and the feedback has been very positive.”
Two antique trucks on the property — a 1936 Ford and a 1940 Chevy — give a nod to the Minard family legacy of apple farming in the region. That history stretches back through four generations and more than a century. The retail portion of the business was briefly out of their hands, after it was sold to the Doubrava family in 2003, but after their retirement this summer, they sold the operation back to the Minard family. Jason’s father, Douglas, who never left the wholesale end of the business, bought back the retail operation in partnership with his brother, Robert.
The 100-acre-plus pick-your-own orchards, the agritainment enterprise and the barn market are run by Jason along with his mom, Diane, and sister, Renee, assisted by a crew of friendly local teenagers. (The Minard cider mill business sold to the Doubrava family when they purchased the orchards is also back in Minard family hands today, those of Diane Minard-DeMaio and her husband, Fred DeMaio.)
“My father’s family have been farmers for generations,” says Jason. “My father’s whole life has been “blood, sweat ‘n’ tears” in the apple industry; 24/7, eight days a week. And a lot goes into it.” Jason’s own path has taken him from earning a marketing degree at Cornell to working as a lawyer and now back to the farm. “And I love it. I truly love it,” he says.
When visitors arrive, he suggests they go on the hayride first. “We take them to three apple-picking spots on the farm where the apples are ripe; one has a nice view of the Shawangunk Mountains. It’s their decision at each spot whether to stay on or get off and pick.”
There is no charge for the ride; the apples cost $10 for a small bag, $18 for a medium and $22 for a large bag (a half bushel). Apple-pickers can come back to the barn market afterward and mix-and-match their selection with the apples in bins.
The selection in the market may be different than what’s available to pick that day. Early October selection of ready-to-pick generally includes Empire, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. Mid-October selections include the same three plus Fuji, Stayman, Winesap, Granny Smith, Mutsu and Rome apples. There’s a full schedule on the website of what to expect in both the fields and the market, but it’s all approximate depending on the growing season. Customers are welcome to call ahead, however, to verify which varieties are available on any given day.
The market also has a selection of mums, roasted corn, jams, jellies, pickles, hot sauce and applesauce, maple syrup and sugar, local honey, Minard’s fresh apple cider, old-fashioned candies, vegetable oil soaps, meat and cheese, apple turnovers, apple butter, apple cider doughnuts, fresh baked pies, dry mixes for fritters and muffins and hot dogs and fries.
Minard’s Family Farm was a beehive of activity on a recent Sunday. Little ones were enjoying the Apple Express — riding in padded carts made from half of a 500-gallon drum with the top of it cut out, pulled by a four-wheeler — and picnic tables were overflowing with families.
Admission to the activities is by purchase of an all-inclusive wristband. The cost is $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and kids ages 3-12. Kids under age three get in free. The apple slingshot attraction out in the orchards, which is really intended more for adults or at least older kids with enough strength to launch a projectile, costs an additional $5 for ten apples in sacks that are aimed to “feed” a “safari” of animals. Anyone hitting the ultimate target wins a prize.
Minard’s Family Farm at 250 Hurds Road in Clintondale will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through November 1. They’ll also be open on Columbus Day, Monday, October 12. Eventually they’ll be open year-round, Jason says, with plans in the works to add even more activities.
More information is available by calling (866) 632-7753, (866) MF-APPLE, visiting Minard’s Family Farm on Facebook or www.minardsfamilyfarm.com.