Updated: Sep. 10, 2021, 3:25 p.m. | Published: Sep. 10, 2021, 2:37 p.m
Beak & Skiff also took the top honor among apple orchards in 2015, 2017 and 2020. The annual Top 10 orchards list is presented just ahead of apple picking season each fall by USA Today’s 10Best.com site. 10Best conducts similar polls on a variety of travel, dining and leisure categories.
“This family-owned orchard has been growing apples since onion farmer George Skiff and dairy farmer Andrew Beak joined forces in 1911 to plant apples on a hillside along Rte. 20,” 10Best posted along with the list. “The rest, as they say, is history. Gala, McIntosh, Ginger Gold and Paula Red are just a few of the varieties offered from late August through late October. Live music events, Cider Fests, Orchard Runs and a Kids’ Magic Show add entertainment to the apple picking.”
Here are the Top 10 orchards according to the poll:
1. Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards – LaFayette, N.Y.
2. Mercier Orchards – Blue Ridge, Ga.
3. Spicer Orchards – Fenton, Mich.
4. Deal’s Orchard – Jefferson, Iowa
5. Eckert’s Orchard – Grafton, Ill.
6. Libby & Son U-Picks – Limerick, Maine
7. Jaswell’s Farm – Smithfield, RI
8. Sky Top Orchard – Flat Rock, NC
9. Huber’s Orchard and Winery – Borden, Ind.
10. Tougas Family Farm – Northborough, Mass.
USA Today readers determine the Top 10 by choosing their favorites from a list of 20 orchards across the country nominated by a 10Best panel of experts. There are about 7,500 apple orchards in the United States.
Beak & Skiff, located at and around the intersection of Route 20 and Route 80 south of Syracuse, is one of the largest and highest profile apple businesses in New York. It is owned and operated by descendants of the Beak and Skiff families who founded the orchard 110 years ago.
It has 700 acres of land, of which 400 are farmed. The apple orchard started in 1911 when onion farmer George Skiff and dairy farmer Andrew Beak joined forces. It helped pioneer onsite retail apple sales and u-pick with its original Apple Hill buildings, on Lord’s Hill Road (Route 80), back in 1975. It has since broadened its operations to include a destination visitors center, a line of hard ciders and distilled spirits (1911 Established) and a big-time concert venue.
More recently, Beak & Skiff has made a big push into the cannabis industry. It grows and processes industrial hemp to produce CBD and other extracts that do not contain the psychoactive compound THC. It recently released a CBD-infused coffee product.
It also plans to move into the recreational marijuana (THC) business once that industry get underway, likely in 2022.
But apples remain the core of the family business.
“To be listed among so many other prominent apple farms is a distinction in itself and we are so proud of the entire Beak & Skiff team for the year round work they do to make our apple orchard so special,” orchard president Eddie Brennan said in a statement on the poll results. “We take immense pride in the atmosphere and experience we cultivate for our guests, along with the quality of apples and products our orchard produces. It is very fulfilling to see that effort and passion resonate with our visitors and look forward to all that’s to come.”
Apple picking season has begun at Beak & Skiff and other orchards around Central New York. Varieties available now include Jonamac (for picking) and Jonamac, McIntosh, Gala, Paula Red and Gingergold at the stand, according to the Beak & Skiff Facebook page.