Farm Share: A peachy weekend

By TINKY WEISBLAT, For the Recorder, August 28, 2019

Tim Smith thinks about his mother a lot these days. Dorothy Peck Smith died in March at the age of 95. She left her son many gifts. These included a love of the land, a feeling for animals and a trove of family recipes.

Tim Smith is the owner and admin-istrator of Apex Orchards on Peckville Road in Shelburne. He and his colleagues are getting ready to host their second annual Peach Fest over Labor Day weekend.

“This is her family farm, actually,” Tim Smith said of his mother. “She grew up here and went to (the University of Massachusetts Amherst). It was Mass Aggie back then,” he added, referring to the university’s beginnings as a school of agriculture.

After working for a few years for the Federal Housing Administration in Vermont, he explained, Dorothy Peck got a master’s degree in home economics from Cornell University in New York. For her thesis, she studied and developed cake mixes, which were just coming into popularity just then.

She met her husband, Mike Smith, at Cornell. Eventually, the pair returned to Shelburne to work on her family’s farm.

In many ways, Apex Orchard is a story of continuity. The land on which it now stands was split among a group of brothers in 1860. A few years back, much of that land was reunited when Tim Smith acquired additional land to add to his orchard and store.

“We didn’t have any way to expand here, the orchard or the parking,” Smith explained as he baked muffins in his farmhouse one recent day. That home faces the old farm store, now a storage area.

The pristine new store, which opened in 2016, is up the road. As they planned the store, Smith and his colleagues had to clear the land around it. “That’s when the view showed up,” he said with a smile.

Indeed, the store, perched on a hill, has one of the best views in Franklin County. Smith noted that landscape architect Walter Cudnohufsky helped design the new and improved pick-yourown- fruit area around the store. “He showed us how to move people through the acreage,” said Smith.

Smith said that his manager, Courtney Basil, thought long and hard about the design and functions of the new store. “We asked. We talked to people. We liked to get the best ideas we could,” he continued.

He is full of enthusiasm for Basil. “It’s good to have young blood coming on,” he smiled. “You’ve got to have new ideas. You’ve got to have people thinking ahead. (Courtney) really enjoys the farm aspects of the work.”

Basil, who will eventually take over the farm from her employer, is happy with the farm and with her employer and mentor.

“I live on the farm,” she said. “It’s a beautiful place. It’s a wonderful family. … I feel very fortunate that I’m going to have this opportunity. Tim has been very patient teaching me. He is still teaching me to this day.”

Apex’s Peach Fest will take place on Saturday, Aug. 31, and Sunday, Sept. 1. In addition to apple and peach picking and wagon rides all weekend, it will feature a number of vendors, food trucks (Bub’s Bar-B-Q on Saturday and Caravan Kitchen on Sunday) and a cooking demonstration on Saturday at noon.

In short, in the words of Dominique Beausoleil, the farm’s assistant manager, the farm hopes to offer “all things peach and more.”

On Sunday, Sept. 1, Apex will hold its first peach-recipe contest. “The contest was my idea. I take full credit,” Tim Smith said.

Would-be contestants are asked to bring along their favorite original sweet or savory peach concoctions (pies, jams, muffins, main dishes, whatever), along with a copy of the recipe. The dishes and recipes may be dropped off at Apex between 10 a.m. and 12:59 p.m. that day; judging will begin at 1.

All contestants will receive a discount coupon for a future purchase at the orchard. The winner will receive an Apex gift card, one of my cookbooks (I will be one of the judges) and bragging rights. The winning recipe will be posted on the Shelburne orchard’s Facebook page.

For more details about the Peach Fest and the recipe contest, visit bit.ly/ 30DT9R5. Meanwhile, here is a peach recipe from Tim Smith. It was devised by the late Dorothy Smith.

“My mother was very opinionated about muffins,” Tim Smith said. “Muffins were supposed to be muffins.” Apparently, Dot Smith disliked the sweet, cakey muffins one often finds at grocery stores and bakeries.

These muffins are not overly sweet. Their flavor is dominated, as it should be, by the fresh fruit they contain: peaches and blueberries from Apex Orchards. A bit more sugar can be added to taste if the fruit is a little sour, but don’t overdo the sweetness.

Mom’s Muffins

2 cups flour 1/3 cup sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 egg 3/4 cup milk 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 peach, peeled and cut into pieces (about 1 cup) 1/2 cup blueberries Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl combine the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt.

Combine the egg, the milk, and the vegetable oil, and pour them on top of the dry ingredients. Gently stir to combine. Fold in the fruit.

Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins, and bake until lightly browned and firm, about 20 minutes. Makes about 9 muffins. Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.

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